PETALING JAYA, Oct 1: A sociologist has advised unemployed fresh graduates to take up lower-paying jobs for now, as they struggle to look for jobs in the midst of the economic impact from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Denison Jayasooria, a research fellow at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM), said this would require a change of mindset but only for the short-term.

“They should not push away low-paying jobs, but this is for two years at the most. Then they can move on to other opportunities as the economy picks up,” he told FMT.

“During this period, self-employment might be the best option. Get the unemployed graduates into induction camps jointly organised by the higher education and human resources ministries.

“Share with them different options like entrepreneurship and social enterprises,” he added.

Higher Education Minister Noraini Ahmad had said about 75,000 of 300,000 fresh graduates were projected to encounter challenges in getting jobs in the first six months after graduation because of the impact of Covid-19.

She said a ministry study showed that 41,161 graduates remained unemployed. With an additional 75,000 to graduate this year, it is estimated that 116,161 graduates need to be given attention to further increase their marketability.

Jayasooria, a policy analyst, said this was a sad situation as youths with degrees were usually touted as the cream of the crop of society and the pride of their family.

“However, their hopes are dashed when they can’t secure a job. One major issue could be their field of study or even their social and language skills,” he said.

“Though the private sector would not invest in further training for new and young potential workers, the Human Resources Development Fund (HRDF) has been investing in training young people for better jobs.”

Jayasooria also called on the higher education and human resources ministries to look into the quality of education offered and language competencies in order to produce better graduates.

Over in Sarawak, state tourism, art, culture, youth and sports minister Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah said the state was not spared the pandemic’s impact on new graduates.

According to the Statistics Department, as at 2019, there were a total of 42,100 unemployed in the state.

Although the state government absorbed some unemployed graduates through its Graduates Enhancement Training Sarawak (GETS) initiative, Karim said it would not be able to resolve the problem.

“Graduates and those who are laid off from employment due to Covid-19 must not be too choosy in searching for jobs. They must be able to accept a lower salary.

“What’s important is that there’s a decent job to do even with minimal pay as the (Covid-19) situation that we are facing now is a global problem,” he told FMT.

Karim said GETS was launched in 2009 to address unemployment, especially among graduates. It was part of the Sarawak government’s initiative to train unemployed graduates to enhance their employability.

He said unemployed graduates who registered themselves under this programme would be assigned to government departments, agencies or private companies as GETS interns for 12 months, and paid a training allowance of RM1,000 per month.

“So far, many of them have performed reasonably well under this programme.”

Meanwhile, the Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) said there was a weak labour market right now as firms grappled with the challenges of resuming business in the midst of the pandemic.

MEF executive director Shamsuddin Bardan told FMT that most employers might not be able to offer job opportunities, while those that could, would not be able to offer it for the long-term due to the uncertainty of their business’ sustainability.

“Securing a job would depend on a person’s skills and experience. Graduates who are more agile and flexible will be in a better position to find employment.

“They have to be digitally savvy and able to accept new forms of employment relationships, such as in the gig economy and e-commerce platforms,” he said.

Shamsuddin stressed that fresh graduates should be constantly upgrading their skills and knowledge, in view of the greater demand for digital literacy and technology know-how right now.

“It is also critical that they can communicate well in written and spoken English,” he said.

Shamsuddin called for greater collaboration between education institutions and industries to address the issue of mismatch of skills, saying the latter could inform the former on the expectations that talents were required to meet.


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