PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) has highlighted the glaring weaknesses in the nation’s education system as one of the reasons for unemployment among youths.
This follows the admission by Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad recently that this situation is a normal phenomenon in developing countries.
MTUC secretary-general J Solomon said it had been generally found in the past that labour markets in developing countries are always sufficiently open and flexible for work to be found.
But he said this situation has completely changed with the advent of automation and global migration of workers, with many youths finding it extremely difficult to find jobs after school.
At the current rate, he was concerned that things could only get worse if the government does not intervene by introducing certain measures.
He said Mahathir was right to say that it is normal among developing countries and developed nations to face this problem as even the International Labour Organisation had discovered this in some of the studies it had done worldwide.
“One of the weaknesses in our education system is the failure to sufficiently prepare school leavers to face the labour market, irrespective of whether they are going to start work immediately or pursue higher education.
“Right now, the focus on students scoring high grades is so strong that other aspects of educating them about the job market are completely ignored. They are told that if they do not do well, there is no world out there for them,” he told FMT.
He said it was alarming that an estimated 30-40% of Form 5 school leavers did not take up tertiary studies.
This group of Malaysians make up a large portion of the unemployed Malaysians, Solomon added.
He added that the school system does not equip the students with the right mind and attitude to face the labour market, which could be daunting for many.
Solomon said there was a dire need to prepare these youths in school and encourage them to take up jobs immediately after school so that they can fill up the vacancies for unskilled jobs which are now being mainly taken up by foreign workers.
He added that the government and employers played a significant role here in encouraging these youths to work with adequate and fair remuneration, something which is very discouraging right now.
“This is a sacrifice that all need to make to bring down the unemployment rate among youths.”
Mahathir had told the Dewan Rakyat recently that unemployment among youths, especially those aged between 15 and 24, is a normal phenomenon in developing and even developed countries.
Mahathir said this is because youths at that age are in a transitional phase between learning and the reality of the job market, adding that factors that lead to youth unemployment include a lack of skills, working experience and education.
Solomon urged the education ministry to initiate programmes to tie up with companies which require workers to fill up temporary jobs for unskilled workers.
This would enable youths to pick up the experience, which is among the key reasons for their unemployment in many cases.
He said there should be a collaboration between the education ministry, human resources ministry and bodies representing the workers, like the Malaysian Employers Federation and Masterbuilders, to provide the space for these workers as they are new to the workplace.
“They should not be bullied or expected to perform miracles with high key performance indicators (KPI) overnight.
“In this regard, the support and cooperation of parents are vital as many these days do not seem to like the idea of sending their children to work during school breaks or while they are waiting for their results.
“This system should be available in secondary schools and it should be a mandatory syllabus for the students to understand and prepare themselves for the changing labour market.”
Economist Madeline Berma, from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia’s School of Economics and Management, said unemployment among youths was common.
However, she agreed it was important to strengthen the education system to prepare youths for the working environment and to assist these youths, especially those with little skills, in the transition from schools/universities to the working world.
She said it is necessary to provide incentives for employers to provide quality apprenticeships and internship programmes to prepare youths for the job market.
She added that reducing the number of foreign workers would also help to address the unemployment issue.