Unemployment Amongst Malaysian Youth

Unemployment Amongst Malaysian Youth

By Maryam Nazir Chaudhary


Unemployment in Malaysia

Although the rate of unemployment in Malaysia is less than that of European countries and the U.S., it is still a growing problem. The Department of Statistics Malaysia reported that the unemployment rate had increased from 3.2 % in 2007 to 3.7% in 2009. Moreover, the situation will only worsen with time – more than 54% of all jobs in Malaysia are predicted to become obsolete with advancements in technology.

A significant proportion of the unutilized workforce is made up of fresh graduates. A census conducted jointly by the National Economic Action Council and the Department of Human Manpower determined that 59,000 graduates and diploma holders were unemployed and 30,000 graduates worked in a field that was not directly relevant to their higher education qualifications. In 2015, the Ministry of Education, Malaysia reported that 24% of total graduates were unemployed. Similarly, the Department of Statistics stated in 2018 that institutions of higher learning in Malaysia produce over 200,000 graduates every year, yet one out of five graduates remain unemployed. The Graduate Tracer Study claimed an even larger figure, reporting that nearly 60% of graduates in Malaysia remain unemployed even after one year since their graduation date . Unfortunately, more than 50% of fresh graduates from public universities earn an income that is far less than what is expected for individuals possessing a bachelor’s degree.

Despite the trend of increasing levels of unemployment amongst Malaysian fresh graduates, job vacancies in the country continue to rise, year by year. This suggests that a lack of job opportunities is not to blame, but rather other factors such as the attributes of the graduates themselves.

Weaknesses of Malaysian Graduates

Industries in Malaysia have reported that several job vacancies exist because there is a lack of qualified candidates for the role. The National Association of Manufacturing (NAM) stated that gaps exist in the range of skilfulness of potential employees in almost all working fields. 

Unemployment amongst fresh graduates can be attributed to the attitude and skills of graduates, or their lack thereof. Graduates are often not ready for the jobs they have applied for, or do not possess the necessary skills to succeed in the position. Several studies have identified the following traits to be subpar in Malaysian graduates: management, problem-solving, communication, leadership, creativity, critical thinking, proactiveness, self-confidence and interaction skills. In 2002, the Central Bank of Malaysia also found that Malaysian graduates were less skilled as compared to their international counterparts, in terms of technical skills, problem-solving skills and communication skills. Furthermore, graduates are often not proactive, and do not take the additional steps to upgrade their skills.

Yet another weakness of Malaysian graduates is English proficiency. Malaysian employees use the English language for as much as 67% of all tasks. However, the Central Bank of Malaysia stated that Malaysian graduates were less skilled in the English language, as compared to international graduates. Similarly, a survey by the Malaysian Ministry of Higher Education showed that unemployed public university graduates had poor communication skills and lacked English proficiency.

Alternatively, institutions of higher education in Malaysia are disconnected from industries. The curriculum taught is out-of-touch and universities often fail to ensure that the educational syllabus taught is consistent with the requirements of the job market. Furthermore, the low competency of lecturers and their lack of industrial experience, results in low-quality education. Thus, educational institutions may not offer sufficient training to prepare individuals for entry into the workforce.

Yet another reason may be unrealistic expectations. In Malaysia, 32% of graduates ask for RM3,000 and above as a starting salary whereas only 9 percent of employers are willing to offer this.


Moving Forward

As the world progresses and competition increases, it has become evident that good grades and academic achievements are no longer enough to guarantee a job. Employers now place a stronger emphasis on interpersonal and soft skills, alongside technical skills. Graduates should be proactive, constantly looking for opportunities to learn and upgrade themselves. Several online platforms such as Coursera, EdX, Udacity and Saylor Academy allow individuals to enhance their skill set.

Moreover, institutions of higher education should also revamp themselves to better equip the younger generation for entering the workforce. Elements of employability skills should be integrated into the curriculum of each course, such as English language skills, career development, ICT skills, communication skills and entrepreneurial skills. Programs should be embedded with a range of experiential learning models such as internships, field work, simulations and cooperative education, to aid in nurturing interpersonal, critical thinking, communication and leadership skills. Alternatively, lecturers should be given consistent, intensive training, whereas industries, employers and academic institutions should collaborate to ensure that bachelor’s courses remain relevant to the ever-changing workplace.

In conclusion, graduates must adopt a flexible, open-minded and proactive attitude. They must be willing to develop skills outside of their field of study if they wish to survive in the competitive job market of today.

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