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Food or fuel? Young singles work two jobs and watch every sen

They say there is no way they can cover their monthly expenses without taking on another job.

Nur Hasliza Mohd Salleh
3 minute read
Many young people face tough choices about where the money they earn each month must go.
Many young people face tough choices about where the money they earn each month must go.

At 29 years old, Jay Pillai is earning an annual income of RM41,000. By day, he is a data analyst at a private company in Putrajaya, and by night he is a food delivery rider, a part-time gig he has held down since October last year. 

But even with two jobs, the money he makes is not enough for him to keep up with the cost of living. 

Speaking in a recent interview with MalaysiaNow, Jay said he was initially embarrassed at having to work two jobs, as he had graduated with a degree from a prestigious university overseas. 

Four years after returning to Malaysia, he is working more than 60 hours a week. 

"At first, I was embarrassed. Now, I'm just thankful that I have a job so I can improve my financial situation," he said. 

Apart from taking care of his own expenses, Jay also supports his parents and two younger siblings who are still studying. 

The money he makes each month is not enough to cover all of the bills and daily expenses, including health insurance. 

His part-time job has helped ease some of his financial burden but he still struggles to pay all of his bills and loans. 

After paying his car loan, rental, insurance, petrol and toll bills, and other miscellaneous expenses, Jay has about RM370 left for money and emergencies. 

"I've had just RM5 left in hand before," he said. "I had to think, should I buy food or petrol?

"That's when I decided, there was no other way. I had to find a second job in order to survive. 

"It's better to trouble myself than to trouble other people." 

The 2022 Remote Work Report recently found that 66% of knowledge workers have a second source of income due to the rising cost of living and current economic challenges. 

Those in the single and working group meanwhile have reported doing extra work for the past five years. 

In 2015, Ahmad Maslan who was the deputy minister of international trade and industry at the time, famously said that working two jobs was nothing out of the ordinary.

But even single people with a household income far above the poverty level say they have had to take on a second job in order to meet their expenses. 

Tan Sheng Ang from Shah Alam works as a lab supervisor in the private sector. At night, he plays the guitar at a club, earning an extra RM3,000 or so per month. 

"I have to juggle two jobs to make sure I don't drown in expenses," Tan said. 

"I can't drive, so it's hard for me to look for another job. I can't do e-hailing or work as a runner.

"But I can play the guitar, and they pay me well at clubs, bars and restaurants." 

Tan takes about two hours to get from his office to his gig location for the night. 

He used to work 40 hours a week. Now, he works anywhere from 60 to 70. 

"During the weekends, more customers hang out at the bar, so I can earn more pocket money jamming with the band," he said. 

Nor Awein and her housemate Farah Dayana meanwhile work 12 hours every Saturday to save for unexpected expenses such as car repairs, medical treatment and kitchen expenses during the holiday season. 

Awein is an assistant at a kindergarten while Farah works as a clerk. Both earn less than RM3,000 a month – not enough to cover the cost of living in a city like Johor Bahru. 

In order to survive, they work part-time jobs babysitting or helping out at nursing homes.

"I began by helping a friend look after her children," Awien said. 

"She helped me spread the word, and more people asked me to babysit their children as well. 

"Most of them work in Singapore on Saturdays and have no one to look after their children when they are not at school. So I babysit and help with the house work." 

After three months, the requests piled up and she asked Farah to take some of the jobs. 

This way, they can earn an extra RM1,800 to RM2,000 a month.

Without a second job, they said, they would not be able to put food on the table. 

"We don't have a choice," Awein said. "This is the only way we can help ourselves."