Jobs squeeze hits older workers harder, says employers group

Younger people have a greater advantage because they are more agile, flexible and IT-savvy, says the MEF.

PETALING JAYA: Older workers, especially those aged 45 and above, are now less likely to find employment in the weak labour market following the Covid-19 pandemic, says the Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF).

According to a report by the Employment Insurance System, a total of 18,397 Malaysians in the 45 and above age group have lost their jobs so far this year.

MEF executive director Shamsuddin Bardan said most employers were now unable to offer long-term permanent employment as they are not sure of the sustainability of their businesses. Some employers that are hiring are offering shorter, fixed-term contracts of one year or less.

“Employers are now focused on a person’s skills and experience in assisting business recovery, rather than age,” he said.

Shamsuddin Bardan.

“The younger generation has an advantage, especially those who are more agile, flexible and IT-savvy compared with older workers. They are generally digitally savvy and can accept new forms of employment such as the gig economy and e-commerce platforms.”

In the event of retrenchment as a last resort, Shamsuddin said employers would select who to let go based on criterias set under the Code of Conduct for Industrial Harmony. These includes the ability, experience, skill and occupational qualifications of individual workers required for the efficient operations in the establishment.

As such, those closer to retirement age may be among the first to be retrenched to ensure younger employees can continue contributing to the company, he said.

He urged those who have experienced loss of employment to upgrade their technological skills, expand their knowledge on digital literacy and make use of government initiatives such as Penjana Kerjaya and MYFutureJobs.

Millions affected as over-45s have dependents

Former Malaysian Trades Union Congress secretary-general J Solomon said millions of Malaysians have been indirectly affected by the weak labour market, as workers aged 45 and above typically had dependents.

J Solomon.

“Based on the average marriage age of Malaysians, many will be having college and school-going children when they reach this age group, which automatically means they still have to finance them even if they have educational loans.

“Those in this group will also have aged and sick parents under their care, as this is the Malaysian culture. In short, it is the most difficult time of their lives, exacerbated by Covid-19.”

Solomon said the older workforce was more vulnerable to retrenchment, due to their higher salaries. Younger workers, on the other hand, could be employed at a much lower salary, sometimes even on a contract basis.

He also said employers tend to retrench this group first in order to cut operational costs and to avoid paying for their medical fees.

“Jobs are being lost with employers taking the easy way out despite huge financial help from the government. Unless there is more help coming from the government like an extension of the loan moratorium, monthly cash aid for those retrenched or creating new jobs, these workers will be in dire straits,” he said.

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