KUALA LUMPUR, May 11 — Former human resources minister M. Kulasegaran today urged Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin to take the country’s unemployment rate seriously and announce measures to boost employment and the survival of businesses.
Kulasegaran said that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in its recent economic outlook on April 2020 projected that Malaysia’s unemployment will spike to 4.9 per cent in 2020, before easing to 3.4 per cent by 2021.
“It was reported that 610,500 Malaysians were unemployed in March due to the impact of the movement control order (MCO), the highest unemployment rate in 10 years. IMF data revealed that there could be a surge of unemployment from 3.2 per cent to 4.9 per cent.
“According to data from the Department of Statistics Malaysia (DOSM), 53.4 per cent of companies or businesses are only able to survive another one or two months with their current wage bill,” he said in a statement.
He said Muhyiddin must realise that the unemployment figure does not include Malaysians that are working in the gig economy as it has yet to be regulated.
“It is safe to say that the number of those currently unemployed is higher than we know. Is the government oblivious to how far-reaching our unemployment crisis is?” he asked.
As an immediate measure, Kula suggested the government emulate the approach of countries like Singapore, Denmark and Australia where their strategy of doing what it takes to support the economy and to save as many as jobs as possible involved spending far more than their budgets would normally allow.
“Their central banks pump tremendous amounts of liquidity into the financial system, including the use of bonds,” he said.
He added that the wage subsidy programme should include mid-tier companies that employ more than 200 workers and an increase the wage subsidy programme to 50 per cent of the salary.
“The current RM600 per month is less than 10 per cent of company payroll and too low compared to the 70 per cent to 80 per cent wages subsidies offered by other governments around the world,” he said.
“There is a revolutionary proposal in the United States Congress that every working-class household receives US$2,000 as emergency payment per month for each family member until the pandemic is over. Perhaps the government can study this move as well,” he added.
He also said it is vital to set up a parliamentary bi-partisan task force to come up with measures to solve the increasing unemployment.
Kula also said the government should initiate training small and medium enterprises (SME) on digital transformation and automation of businesses that would later add value to organisations that are recovering from the current economic turmoil.
He said the government also needs to legislate for more labour market flexibility in terms of encouraging remote working and flexible hours.