Muhd Fadhil Abdul Rahman, CIVICA Research Associate & Senior Research Officer, Merdeka Center
The Central Bank’s Annual Report has, by now, become one of the most awaited publications in the nation. Year after year, the presented findings trigger feedback from various stakeholders who are eager to highlight arising issues – primarily those related to public interest such as cost of living, rate of employment, job segmentation, debt figures and of course, salaries and wages.
Similarly, the 2018 edition of the document, released to the masses yesterday (March 27th) revealed recurring matters, those associated with aforementioned topics. Inadequate pay, rising costs, difficulties in obtaining job interviews and placements, significant increase in usage of foreign labour, need to bolster offering of hi-skilled workers and rise in household debt are well-explained, yet require continuing policy measures to be undertaken, with close monitoring by the rightful authorities.
While the political direction in the national arena remain somewhat uncertain and erratic, those responsible for strengthening (or renewing) the economic agenda must consider trend-changing alternatives. Within this realm, employers should offer compassion and resources to enhance human capital development organically.
As unrealistic or impossible as these suggestions may be, the players involved could consider these ideas:
- Offer state-based minimum wage. Different states have different levels of input and vary in terms of day-to-day living costs, thus standardising the minimum pay rate across the board is slightly unfair for those seeking opportunities in the urban areas.
- Provide recommended pay scale for positions in all industries. By publishing these adjusted figures based on expertise, academic background, professional qualifications and other relevant criteria, there will be a minimum threshold – enabling prospective employees to estimate their earnings and pressure employers to treat their workers rightfully.
- Upgrade employee benefits to reflect current needs. Rather than depending on the government schemes to provide monetary assistance, especially to those classified in the B40 and M40 groups, employers could allocate certain resources for their dedicated employers – i.e. educational scholarships or allowances for employees’ children, housing allowances or placements, travel allowances, special allocation for basic household needs etc.
- Ensure the future generation (school-going kids, undergraduates and trainees) are well-equipped to face employment challenges, by readying them with suitable skills aligned with their interests. These groups should be allowed to participate in the employment sector through exposure to industries, as they recognise their passion from an early stage – driving towards planned career growth.
- Broaden intake of local workers into the labour force, primarily those dominated by foreigners. With the rise of automation and the necessity to employ jobless youths, locals shall be prioritised over outsiders to help stimulate the economy. Reports of substantial ringgit outflow amounting to more than RM 100 billion from the year 2011 onwards could have been spent on empowering fellow Malaysians, particularly the young adults who are faced with financial constraints.
- Emphasise emerging industries on top of manufacturing and services, and develop specialised talents in sectors with high demand. The ever-consistent comments of ‘employees or candidates need to be retrained or possess insufficient skills’ for particular jobs should be replaced by genuine critique on the outstanding ability of talents to grasp concepts and innovate – built upon strong knowledge-based foundation.
We do expect the projected growth of the nation to be channelled down to the masses. The ultimate goals of removing the needy from hardship and uplifting the quality of life altogether can only be realised through prudent yet effective economic reforms, utilising the strengths and capacities of all stakeholders – with the cooperation of employers and industries who are equally focused at boosting the livelihood of all Malaysians
(This article was first published on March 28, 2019.)