In a WhatsApp group discussion yesterday, someone made a comment on how difficult it is for fresh graduates to find a job now. While the usual nonsensical prerequisites are applied (e.g. fresh graduates are encouraged to apply, with minimum 3-year work experience), the current Malaysian economic climate does not allow for the creation of meaningful jobs.
In a report published in March of this year, Bank Negara Malaysia said that between 2010 and 2017, an average of 173,457 diploma and degree graduates entered the workforce annually over that period while only an average of 98,514 high-skilled jobs were created. Therefore, we ended up with having 599,544 jobless graduates over an 8-year period – those who cannot find high-skilled jobs.
Without looking at the big picture, they swallowed hook, line and sinker Pakatan Harapan’s promise to provide 1 million jobs in over 5 years. It is of no surprise that first-time voters kicked out the Barisan Nasional for failing to assist them adequately. This situation is not showing any sign of improvement.
In a statistics released on 1 March 2019, the Department of Statistics Malaysia reported that there were only 198,000 job vacancies in 2018 compared to 206,000 in 2017 and only 101,000 jobs created in 2018 compared to 157,000 in 2017. Only 27,000 new jobs have been created in Q2 2019 of which 55.3 percent are for semi-skilled workers (48.5 percent) and low-skilled workers (6.8 percent). At this rate if everything else remains status quo, only half a million jobs would be created till the next general elections – half of what was promised to the voters in 2018.
Whether or not the graduates possess the right skill-set is another matter. Employers often lament about the lack of quality of graduates being produced: poor social skills, lack of sense of responsibility, unwilling to work extra hours.
More jobs will be lost now that the era of Industry 4.0 is here. We are already seeing over-the-counter services being taken over by automation. We already have self-order kiosks at MacDonald’s, online banking causing banks to consolidate branches making tellers more and more redundant. In Singapore, robots have taken over the job of mortals delivering room service to hotel customers.
Self-driving vehicles will see the demise of jobs such as taxi, limousine and lorry drivers. No traffic policemen will be needed as autonomous vehicles will abide by traffic rules. Local municipalities will not have traffic wardens while robots with artificial intelligence will service these vehicles at service centres instead of by human beings. Self-driving tractors and harvesters will help manage paddy fields better and more efficiently while drones will help plant seedlings and spray fertiliser and insecticide without having to employ and pay tens of workers to do the same jobs.
With automation becoming more and more affordable, menial jobs will soon be unavailable to our children and grandchildren. This will leave the underprivileged children in suburban and rural areas at risk of being unemployed. Robots do not need annual leave, maternity leave, sick leave and nor do they have moods to set their daily levels of productivity.
All the above will create social time-bombs that will explode from time-to-time, especially during general elections if not handled carefully, no matter who administers the government.
Therefore, it is imperative to look beyond black school shoes, crying and balanced breakfast meals to prepare the future generation for a future with far less jobs. I stand corrected but not one education roadmap has been produced to create a path on which the Ministry of Education can properly plan its policies. This needs to be discussed with the relevant ministries and industry players to create the optimal environment in which the right jobs can be created for the right skills set. Otherwise, be prepared for frequent demonstrations, change of governments, and increase in crime rates.