SEPTEMBER 20 — From 2010 to 2017, more than 170,000 graduates entered the workforce annually. However, there were only 98,000 high-skilled employment gains in that period, according to Bank Negara.

That means, out of 10 graduates, more than four were employed below their qualification.

Murray Hunter recently pointed out that youth unemployment reached almost 60 per cent of the 504,000 unemployed.

Underemployment and youth unemployment are urgent issues that need solution. The remedy lies in our education system, economic policy, and response to global market condition.


After more than 60 years under Barisan Nasional, is our country’s competitiveness robust? Are our education system and social and cultural upbringing preparing our youths to be productively employed? Is our country attracting enough investment that generate high-value jobs?

As the statistics above shown, the answer to these questions is sadly, ‘No, no, and no.’

In 1965, Malaysia’s GDP per capita was US$310 while South Korea's was US$108. Our economic productivity was about 65 per cent more than South Korea.


Fast forward to 53 years later, in 2018, our GDP per capita was US$11,239, while South Korea’s was US$31,363. They have surpassed us by 179 per cent.

In the past, Vietnam used to be backward compared to Malaysia. Today, Vietnam ranked nine spots above Malaysia in World Bank’s Human Capital Index.

The US News and World Report has recently named Vietnam as the eighth best country for investment with Malaysia as the 13th.

The global market economy doesn’t wait for anyone. Either we improve our competitive advantage or be left behind.

For a state like Penang, with zero natural resources, there is no time to lose. The state has to leverage on its growing manufacturing and services sectors.

The plans to reclaim new land bank for industrial and commercial expansion and to build an integrated transport infrastructure can help to reduce underemployment and youth unemployment. We have high-skilled graduates. What we lack are high-skilled jobs.

Macau’s newly launched Light Rail Transit (LRT) is a good example. The LRT project has created more than 500 employment opportunities and provided platform for knowledge transfer to develop local workforce.

*Joshua Woo is the executive director of Penggerak Komuniti Muda (Penang Youth Movement).

* This is the personal opinion of the writer(s) or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.