By Steven Sim
The latest Labour Force Survey Report 2016 clearly shows that only 27.5% of those working in Malaysia have a tertiary education. If you exclude migrant workers at that level, the percentage for Malaysians is even lower at 26.7%.
That means, almost three quarters of workers in Malaysia either have no formal education, or only attained Form 5 at the very most.
It must be noted that having a tertiary education is defined as “those whose highest level of education is above Form 5.”
If we scope down even further, then only 12.4% of our workers possess a university degree (Bachelor, Masters or PhD).
On the other hand, more than a third of unemployed persons in Malaysia (33.6%) have tertiary education.
In 2013, the government responding to my question on underemployment in Parliament said that 21% of our graduates are working in jobs which do not require any tertiary education.
What do all these numbers mean?
Firstly, jobs for university graduates are very few in Malaysia, and secondly, many of our university graduates are unemployed, and, thirdly some of our graduates have had to take up jobs which do not require any university degree at all.
In summary, in Malaysia, the higher one studies, the less likely one can find a job.
High-income nation without jobs for graduates
This is very odd considering that the government is aiming to be a high-income nation by 2020.
Are we going to achieve high-income nation status without jobs for graduates?
If read together with the Salaries & Wages Survey Report 2016 released recently, the median monthly salary for those with tertiary education (RM3,274) is more than double those with secondary education (RM1,600).
In fact between 2015 and 2016, jobs for those with secondary education increased significantly by 2.4% compared to jobs for those with tertiary education at 0.4%.
This corroborated with data from Bank Negara itself in its 2016 Annual Report, “[d]espite the workforce increasingly becoming more educated, job creation in the Malaysian economy has remained concentrated in the low and mid-skilled jobs…”
All the Performance Management and Delivery Unit (Pemandu) talks about is Malaysia becoming a high-income nation in three years’ time. However, even if we are by then, on paper, who gains and at whose expense?
Steven Sim is MP for Bukit Mertajam; Deputy Spokesperson, DAP Parliamentary Committee on Human Resources and Director of Penang Institute.
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