12MP should promote new forms of employment, innovative companies and start-ups for graduates, says economist


KUALA LUMPUR (October 17): Like many other countries, Malaysia has not been spared the effects of the Covid 19 pandemic. This is evidenced by the rising unemployment rate, which skyrocketed to 4.5% in 2020 from 3.3% in 2019.

In its Graduates Statistics 2020 report, the Department of Statistics Malaysia also showed that the number of unemployed graduates rose to 202,400 in 2020, up from 165,200 in 2019.

Fortunately, the gig economy offers university graduates in particular a new opportunity to apply for jobs not only locally but also on international platforms.

As part of the recently unveiled 12th Malaysia Plan 2021-2025 (12MP), the government has given assurances that it will create an ecosystem that will support the development of the gig economy to encourage people to take full advantage of this opportunity.

To improve the situation, Geoffrey Williams, a professor at the Malaysia University of Science and Technology (MUST) said several initiatives could be taken in the 12MP, including promoting new forms of employment, new innovative companies, graduate startups and very fresh Sense of employment after the Covid-19 crisis.

“That means liberalizing markets; Promoting entrepreneurs; Opening up opportunities; Making life easier for micro, small and medium-sized businesses; and promoting decent, well-paid jobs with a good work-life balance and long-term flexibility and security in a whole new future of work, ”he said Bernama when contacted recently.

Aside from that, he said, social pensions and social security should be added with the help of government and corporations to ensure the welfare of gig workers.

When asked what the government should focus on in creating the ecosystem, as mentioned in the 12MP, Williams noted the importance of not making unemployment and underemployment the norm.

Using the example of Europe and the USA in the 1980s, he said that unemployment had been a structural problem for decades.

“We have to avoid that because, as we can see, the graduates don’t so much lack skills or willingness to work, but rather the fact that there are too few good jobs in existing companies,” he said.

While the importance of the gig economy was highlighted in the 12MP, a major concern is that the gig economy in Malaysia is often associated with “low jobs” such as delivery drivers and e-hailing drivers who are constantly in an environment with a lack of adequate social protection .

In order to prevent gig workers, especially young graduates, from falling into such a “job trap with little added value”, Williams says the government should ensure a good, transparent and supportive environment with less intervention.

He said laws should also be reviewed to ensure gig employees are protected and have rights, particularly to proper pay and payment.

“Jobs in the gig economy can be viable, empowering and flexible income options, so the right legal framework and due process options must be in place,” he said.

According to Williams, there could also be an ombudsman system to facilitate enforcement of online claims.

“We need to stop unscrupulous companies that use gig economy workers to avoid paying minimum wages and benefits, and we also need to end exclusive zero-hour contracts that restrict trade for gig economy workers.

“People should be free to work for multiple companies so they can get gigs from anyone who has them,” he said, adding that the laws should also be made easier for gig workers to register as a company and create enforceable contracts rather than just model agreements with mega-firms.

Promote high quality gig jobs

While Williams acknowledged that jobs in the gig economy are often linked to low-skilled, low-income jobs like delivery drivers and e-hailing drivers, Williams said that people shouldn’t limit their ideas to that.

Today, freelancers often create micro-businesses that use online platforms to provide services in areas such as graphic design and branding, digital marketing and e-commerce, freelance writing and content creation, virtual assistant and professional support, online training and coaching, as well Web development and coding.

“Even professionals like lawyers and accountants are now offering services through online platforms and it’s getting pretty respectable and well paid,” he said.

To promote high quality gig jobs in the country, Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) ran the eRezeki High Income Apprentice program in 2016 to explore opportunities in the digital freelance segment.

The six-month pilot program, which ended in December 2016, trained and supervised 658 participants who successfully generated a cumulative income of RM 2.9 million.

The jobs and work performed by digital freelancers include programming, graphic design, data analysis, content writing, proofreading, translation, and transcription. These jobs are usually of a high quality and therefore require appropriate qualifications.

The pilot was later expanded into the Global Online Workforce (GLOW) program in 2018, with the aim of empowering local talent, especially the unemployed and underemployed college graduates, to become digital freelancers by using their knowledge, skills and abilities to secure jobs execute on the world market.

These efforts continue in the 12MP to train the local talent on how to become digital freelancers by providing relevant opportunities that could improve the skills and quality of Malaysian digital freelancers in the global marketplace.

Meanwhile, advanced training and retraining programs are being offered to improve gig workers’ career path in the location-based platforms.

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