Economist: Govt should boost SME sector to create more jobs

Hundreds of job seekers visited the Job Fair at Urban Transformation Centre (UTC) 5.0, Ipoh October 6, 2018. — Picture by Marcus Pheong
Hundreds of job seekers visited the Job Fair at Urban Transformation Centre (UTC) 5.0, Ipoh October 6, 2018. — Picture by Marcus Pheong

KUALA LUMPUR, April 29 — The Pakatan Government’s pledge to create one million job opportunities in five years is attainable in the long term if it boosts development expenditure and fosters the growth of small and medium enterprises (SMEs), according to an academic.

Dean of Universiti Putra Malaysia’s Faculty of Economics and Management Prof Azali Mohamed said employment opportunities and cost of living were among the prevailing critical issues in Malaysia.

“If the government wants to create more job opportunities, it has to increase its development expenditure because this will help to boost the economic sector which encompasses the main sub-sectors, namely transport, trade and industry, energy, public utilities and agriculture,” he told Bernama, recently.

PH made the pledge to create one million jobs in five years in its 14th General Election manifesto. Earlier this month, Human Resources Minister M. Kula Segaran told the Dewan Rakyat that within eight months after PH took over the nation’s administration, employment opportunities had increased by 130,000.

“Our target of creating one million jobs is not a problem. We believe initiatives implemented by the new government can give our children the opportunity to work,” he said.

Describing the economic sector as the engine that will drive economic growth and create more jobs, Azali said the growth of critical sub-sectors like trade and industry and transport would create a higher demand for manpower, particularly graduates.

Under Budget 2019, RM57 billion has been allocated to development expenditure, with 52 per cent or RM29 billion allocated to economic sectors such as agriculture, mineral resources development, trade and industry, transport, communications, energy and public utilities, research and development, finance and environment.

Azali also welcomed the government’s move to resume the East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) project, saying that it is expected to create 80,000 to 100,000 employment opportunities for Malaysians.

This project will certainly accelerate the increase in job opportunities and bring the government closer to realising its target.

Empower SME sector

Meanwhile, pointing to SMEs, Azali said being a critical component of the Malaysian economy, this sector held good prospects for job creation.

“The government’s support of SMEs is crucial as this sector currently provides 5.7 million jobs to 70 per cent of Malaysia’s workforce,” he said.

He said there were more than 900,000 SMEs nationwide, 90 per cent of which were involved in the services sector. The other sectors they are involved in are manufacturing (5.3 per cent), construction (4.3 per cent), agriculture (1.1 per cent) and mining (0.1 per cent).

“Even if the government were to focus on just half of the SMEs, it will help,” he said.

Citing South Korea’ achievement, he said the development of SMEs during the 1970s and 1980s by the government led to many job opportunities for its citizens.

“So far in our country, we’ve not been really serious about elevating and empowering our SMEs,” he added.

Market demand

Meanwhile, Malaysian Employers Federation chief executive officer Datuk Samsuddin Bardan said currently about 100,000 job opportunities were being created yearly while some 260,000 youths were completing their studies every year.

He said the sales and marketing field has many vacancies but most graduates were not interested in taking up those jobs as the basic salary was low and their income would be dependent on their sales.

Shamsuddin also said that jobs based on short-term contracts of between three and six months were also available in the market but jobseekers were not keen on them due to the lack of employment security and career prospects.

“Jobseekers should by right grab any opportunity that is offered to them so that they can gain some experience, which will enable them to land a better job later,” he said.

The market demand for manpower in the fields of research and development, information and communications technology, electronic and telecommunications engineering, graphic design, multimedia and system analysis should be matched by appropriate human capital development programmes.   

“To upgrade the skills of our manpower, human capital development has to be mobilised through reforms in education,” explained Samsuddin, adding that emphasis should be given to life-long learning to generate human resources equipped with various skills.

He also said that the nation’s transition to a knowledge-based economy would require human capital with cognitive skills. 

“Education and training are crucial when it comes to creating a competent workforce with different levels of skills who can function productively.

“Industries should also collaborate with educational institutions to ensure that their training programmes are updated regularly to meet the current and future needs of the job market,” he added. — Bernama

Related Articles