BY EILEEN NG
Putrajaya should focus on facilitating value-added, higher productivity industries that will give Malaysians, especially the young, higher-paying jobs rather than build more universities, says a DAP lawmaker.
Bukit Bendera MP Zairil Khir Johari said while building more universities was a positive move which would catalyse economic growth, it would not, however, resolve problems faced by youth – who are either unemployed or working in jobs that do not commensurate with their qualifications.
“While building more universities may seem like a good idea, it is pointless to do so if it will not result in social mobility and better-paying jobs,” he said, referring to Barisan Nasional’s Teluk Intan by-election candidate Datuk Mah Siew Keong election manifesto pledge to build a university for the semi-urban seat.
“Instead, the government’s focus should be on facilitating value-added, higher-productivity industries that will be able to give local Malaysians a decent income and a better life,” he said in a statement.
Citing a 2012 Word Bank data, which recorded youth unemployment in Malaysia at 10.3%, Zairil said the number was higher than regional peers, such as Thailand (2.8%), Singapore (6.7%) and even Japan during its economic malaise (8%).
Although Putrajaya had pointed out that 10.3% was low compared with European countries, the DAP assistant publicity secretary said it made “absolutely no sense” to use such a comparison as Europe was going through a sustained economic crisis.
He also expressed concern for youth underemployment, which, according to Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Seri Abdul Wahid Omar, saw 15.1% of Malaysian youth employed in jobs not commensurable with their degrees.
This is further compounded by the fact that 70% of the Malaysian workforce is made up of unskilled or low-skilled workers.
As such, Zairil said, Putrajaya had to take responsibility that tens of thousands of graduates remained either unemployed or underemployed even after spending four years earning a degree that was supposed to land them well-paying jobs.
“It is clear that the problem is not the lack of universities, but the lack of jobs that not only suit our graduates’ qualifications but also pay commensurately.”
To resolve this problem, the first-term MP suggested that the syllabus and course content in universities be revamped to make them more relevant to industry needs.
The nation, he added, should focus on emerging trends and high-paying, knowledge-based industries rather than the current syllabus that trained the future workforce in skills that were outdated the moment they graduated.
“In addition, the federal government needs to put more investment into up-skilling and re-skilling workers, and reduce the widespread over-reliance on cheap, unskilled foreign labour. There also needs to be more incentives to mechanise and automate in order to create skilled jobs that pay better,” he said.
Teluk Intan will go to the polls on Saturday in the contest between DAP’s Dyana Sofya Mohd Daud against former deputy minister Mah.
The constituency has 60,349 voters, comprising 23,301 Malay voters (38.6 %), 25,310 Chinese (41.9 %) and 11,468 Indians (19%).