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Graduates want more dynamic job market post-GE15

Many are still scrambling to find jobs, even as statistics show improvement in the country's labour market.

Ahmad Mustakim Zulkifli
3 minute read
Jobseekers enquire at one of the booths at a recent job fair in Taman Melawati, Selangor.
Jobseekers enquire at one of the booths at a recent job fair in Taman Melawati, Selangor.

Since completing their studies several months ago, Nurafiah Azizul Rahim and Shahirah Qistina Mohd Redza have been scouring the ads looking for jobs while waiting for the date of their convocation ceremony. 

The two girls, both 20 years old, graduated from the Gombak Vocational College and are now holding down part-time jobs that are unrelated to their fields of study – Nurafiah at a restaurant and Shahirah at a florist. 

Nurafiah said she had tried all manner of applications and job portals including Indeed and Jobstreet in her hunt for a job. 

"But up until today, I'm still looking," she added. 

Hopeful of landing a full-time job, they went to the recent job fair organised by the international trade and industry ministry in Gombak, Selangor. 

But while they were encouraged by what they saw, they had hoped for a wider variety of jobs from different sectors. 

"Most of them were concentrated in the field of engineering or technology," Shahirah said. 

As the country gears up for its 15th general election (GE15), their hope is that whoever forms the next government will focus more on the local job market.

This includes making sure that jobs are accompanied by suitable salaries. 

The two friends said it was difficult to make ends meet, living in the capital city on only the minimum wage of RM1,500. 

In Malaysia, the job market is expected to continue strengthening throughout the second half of the year, with research firm MIDF Research projecting a drop in unemployment rate from 4.5% to 3.8%.

Nevertheless, not everyone is benefiting from the stronger numbers. 

And while job hunts are normally associated with fresh graduates, not all jobseekers are in their 20s, or even their 30s. 

At 45, Mohammad Faizal is struggling to lock down a stable job. 

He used to work as a procurement officer in the field of healthcare but his contract, when it expired, was not renewed. 

"I've applied for so many vacancies but only one place called me in for an interview," he said. "And in the end, I didn't get the job.

"There are many job opportunities out there, but there are also many who are losing their jobs and still more fresh graduates entering the job market every year." 

Faizal, who has been out of a job for several months now, tries to support his family by working in the gig economy. 

But even here, competition is tough. 

"At this age, I don't care what level of job I get," Faizal said. "But because of my age, my chances are low."

According to him, companies prefer young talents who are easily shaped and who are willing to work for lower pay.

"This is despite the fact that businesses, especially start-ups, need experienced workers," he added. 

Although the government does not fully intervene in the labour market, economists have highlighted several issues related to the job market and labour. 

They say Malaysia is in critical need of labour reforms to tackle the issues at hand. 

On the opposite end of the spectrum is 25-year-old Shahir Jalal, who landed a job and then quit after finding a new interest. 

Shahir had worked as a production engineer at a factory in Klang, Selangor, but is now looking for opportunities in the technology field. 

"I went to the job fair hoping to find work as a coder," he said. 

Shahir studied coding on his own at a local private academy, graduating with a certificate.

He hopes that the government will create more technology-related jobs. 

Economist Ahmed Razman Abdul Latiff said that addressing matters related to the job market would need efforts by the private sector, in addition to government policies. 

Razman, of the Putra Business School, said the private sector should work to improve efficiency in terms of operations and cost management. 

"Then companies will be able to employ local workers with more attractive offers without affecting their profits," he said. 

"Local companies cannot always depend on foreign workers who will work for cheap because this will not help them be competitive and sustainable over the long run.

"Those who do not undergo digitalisation and automation will risk losing their competitive edge."  

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