PETALING JAYA: A DAP MP today voiced concern over the unemployment situation in the country, saying 2020 figures are likely to surpass Bank Negara Malaysia’s estimate of 4%.
In a statement, Ong Kian Ming said he estimated that some 1.67 million jobs were at risk in five vulnerable sectors: travel and tourism, wholesale and retail, construction, manufacturing and agriculture.
If these jobs were lost, added to the existing figure of 600,000 as of March 2020, it would mean that unemployment would have surpassed the two million mark, he said.
“The total labour force was 15.8 million as of March 2020. With an estimated 2.3 million unemployed, we may reach a 14% unemployment rate at the height of this economic crisis.”
From January to April, Ong said, the loss of employment reported to the Employment Insurance System (EIS) was 37,347 jobs, a 156.5% increase from the 14,561 jobs lost in the same period last year.
“What is more worrying is the projections made by the EIS centre that total loss of employment will increase from 40,084 in 2019 to 106,700 in 2020, or an increase of 266%,” the Bangi MP said.
He added this only reflects a part of the unemployment situation as not all workers are registered under the EIS.
“We must also keep in mind that those who may have lost their jobs in the past will not find it as easy to find another job soon in the Covid-19 economy.”
If unemployment is projected to increase by 2.5 times reflecting the projected loss of unemployment by the EIS centre, Ong said the unemployment rate could hit 8.4% in 2020.
The DAP assistant political education director added that some jobs which are at risk might have been saved by the government’s Wage Subsidy Programme and Employee Retention Programme.
But he said it would be wrong to claim these measures had saved 2.4 million jobs which the Malaysian Institute for Economic Research previously estimated would be lost, as some companies would have continued operating without the initiatives.
Ong said some job losses and business closures could have been prevented if Malaysia had passed a Covid-19 relief bill prior to the movement control order as neighbouring Singapore did to provide temporary relief measures for the inability to meet some contractual obligations.
“In Malaysia, the legal affairs division in the Prime Minister’s Office is only now asking for feedback for a similar bill.”
He also said the government should focus on plans to revive sectors which were most affected, including tourism, and increase assistance to businesses and individuals beyond what has already been announced.
“If the loss of employment figures are not taken seriously, any further action by the government may come too late and the increase in unemployment to between 8% and 14% will have serious societal as well as economic implications.”
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