The Executive Director of the Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) Shamsuddin Bardan has recently argued that the poor command of English is the main reason why Bumiputera graduates find it hard to get jobs in the private sector.
This is not a novel idea and indeed, Shamsuddin made this exact same argument in response to what was virtually the exact same question in 2018.
I do not deny that competency in the English language is a crucial skill that all Malaysians need. It is valuable in and of itself. And I also do not deny that it is a problem facing many Malaysian graduates—Bumiputera or otherwise.
But it is just one component of the problem. It may be a very big one, perhaps the biggest—but again, it is just one piece of the puzzle.
The danger is that we rely on simplistic assumptions in trying to understand a complex issue, especially if it involves blaming the real victims of a problem.
The fact is that the Malaysian job market has become more challenging in general over the last couple of years.
Indeed, it is no stretch to say that it has collapsed, and this will likely be compounded by the recession created by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Jobs can be created, but if there are not well-paying, or rather, if they don’t provide opportunities for growth, no one—except perhaps cheap migrant labour—will take them.
You cannot demand workers surrender to perpetually low-paying jobs they can never escape from—which leaves them nothing to save or build families with.
On the other hand, academic studies such as 2016’s seminal “Degrees of Discrimination: Race and Graduate Hiring in Malaysia” by Dr. Muhammed Abdul Khalid and Dr. Lee Hwok Aun has shown that there are real instances of private sector discrimination against Bumiputera graduates.
Moreover, Shamsuddin contradicts himself when he reportedly said that: “There’s no need to be afraid or shy because when they improve, they will benefit from it, too. Companies can then teach them other skills.”
But how are Bumiputera graduates supposed to get such on-the-job-skills when they won’t even be hired in the first place because of the English issue?
Am I saying English is unimportant or should be ignored? I am not. Should employers be forced to hire mediocre workers? Of course not.
But the point I am trying to make is that there are nuances to the Bumiputera graduate unemployment issue than just a case of poor English skills. The same can be said for the challenges facing graduates of all races in Malaysia.
Solving this dilemma requires holistic solutions—including overhauling our education system, ensuring just wage growth and incentivizing companies to constantly upskill as well as develop their workforces to boost productivity.
But these won’t happen if we are stuck in the belief that the onus is only on the workers to improve themselves without any aid from the government or private sector. This is simply not realistic and will hurt all sides—including business owners—in the long-run.
The MEF’s stand is hence tone deaf. But it is also par on course when one considers that this organisation, perhaps unsurprisingly, has always resorted to blaming workers for their plight rather than confront the real issues at hand.
It would be very unfortunate if the current government takes such wrong-headed and dangerous ideas seriously—if it ever gets down to formulating serious and much-needed policies to address our deepening unemployment crisis.
NIK NAZMI NIK AHMAD
KEADILAN PARLIAMENTARY SPOKESPERSON ON EDUCATION
SETIAWANGSA MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT
The Opposition should not be focused on positions but on defending the interests of the rakyat in these difficult times.
We should not be trying to relitigate the past but focused on the future. Still, it cannot be denied that Pakatan Harapan’s victory in the 2018 General Elections was not the sole work of any one individual or party.
It was a collective effort, borne by the sacrifices of many, which came to fruition because of the support of the people of Malaysia.
The rakyat backed us because of our Buku Harapan manifesto as well as our pledge that a transition of power would take place. That is what defeated UMNO-Barisan Nasional. That is why KEADILAN won 47 seats, DAP 42, BERSATU 13, AMANAH 11 and our ally WARISAN 8 in that election.
Again, we should not be preoccupied with questions about who our next Prime Ministerial candidate should be. Each party, including Pakatan Harapan has stated its position. The Leader of the Opposition in Parliament has also been named. These facts should be respected.
The crucial thing is for the parties in Opposition to concentrate on working to hold the government accountable for its actions as well as to ensure that there are wise policies in place to facilitate an economic recovery.
We were sent to Parliament to make sure that Malaysians have the jobs, education, aid and opportunities they deserve.
NIK NAZMI NIK AHMAD
KEADILAN ORGANISING SECRETARY
SETIAWANGSA MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT
Most of the key issues in KL are all related to the economy and development. The level of development and per capita income in the city can be said to be almost, or on par with developed countries.
However, the issues stem from the fact that the B40 in KL are often overlooked because of their higher income than their counterparts from rural areas and even other towns, while the cost of living in KL is not taken into account.
With regards, to income disparity, there is indeed no easy short-term solution.
The increase in minimum wage is positive. In fact, KL should be the pioneer for a living wage that was proposed by Bank Negara. In addition, programs for interventions in welfare, education and health should be expanded.
There is a lot to be done to improve the environment in PPRs, and I believe it is important to focus on children.
That is why I have innovated on what I learned with the Mentari Project in PJ with the Tunas Mentari football project in PPR Air Panas and the Reading Bus Program in AU3.
In the long term, I believe we should have some form of local council elections. But we must acknowledge there still exists long-held fears of racial dominance, dating to the days of 1960s, which was borne through local council elections as well.
The government should conduct a study on how to implement a system that is inclusive and will dispel any fears. Even if we cannot implement in nationwide, the democratic deficit justifies KL to have an elected local government.
KL is a city with a lot of potential, and really the sky’s the limit. However, we need to move beyond the nitty-gritty issues.
We need to focus on public transport, as it is crucial for the city. There has been a lot of work done by Prasarana, FT Ministry and DBKL in improving this.
Previously the free GoKL bus service was only utilised by tourists and foreigners due to its routes which mainly serves the downtown area of the city.
Now, the expanded and new routes go through residential areas and connect with existing LRT/MRT lines. We should look at restarting MRT3, whether using the original route or an improved route.
Ultimately, the KL City Plan must be viewed holistically for a sustainable development of the city. We can allow development, but work harder in providing new PPR areas to ensure the city remains inclusive.
At the same time, the character of KL must be preserved whether it is about the city’s heritage or green areas.
BERNAMA TV; The Nation; 31 December 2019;
Topic: Milestones In 2019
1. YB Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad / MP, Setiawangsa
2. Danial Rahman / BERNAMA TV Anchor
[LIVE] THE NATION31 DECEMBER 2019 / TUESDAYTOPIC: MILESTONES IN 2019 GUEST:1. YB NIK NAZMI NIK AHMAD/ MP, SETIAWANGSA2. DANIAL RAHMAN / BERNAMA TV ANCHOR
Posted by Bernama TV on Monday, 30 December 2019
Yesterday I explained why the concerns of the employers who are not satisfied by the new RM1,200 minimum wage in the cities are baseless.
But the government should also consider the living wage that was proposed by Bank Negara in line with developed economies across the world.
I have raised this in Parliament before. The fact is that the minimum wage and living wage are different.
The minimum wage, which is the statutory minimum, of RM1,200 is far lower than the living wage. The living wage is not mandatory in nature, but can be introduced through incentives and encouragements.
According to the 2017 Bank Negara Annual Report, the living wage for an individual in Kuala Lumpur was RM2,700, while a household with two children would require RM 6,500.
The living wage goes beyond securing necessities such as food and shelter, but also affords social participation and financial security.
In 2016, nearly 50% of working adults in Kuala Lumpur earned less than RM2,500 per month, and up to 27% of households earned below the estimated living wage.
IDEAS Malaysia a think-tank known for its free market ideas that are frequently referred by major corporations, have also proposed a living wage policy through tax credits.
If IDEAS itself has proposed this, it is clear that the concept that Malaysians need higher wages should no longer be controversial, but accepted in order to drive our economy forward.
The government should look at the relevant sectors as well as incentives in order to introduce a living wage in stages through consultation with government agencies, employers and employees.
NIK NAZMI NIK AHMAD
KEADILAN Chief Organising Secretary
KEADILAN Central Leadership Council Member
Setiawangsa Member of Parliament