The government has shown no evidence that it has provided incentives to troubled companies to retain their workers in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak, a webinar was told last night.
Although the private sector is often touted as the main provider of jobs, Putrajaya is doing little to head off a potential wave of layoffs when companies resume operations after the Hari Raya holidays.
“I would like to see more support of the private sector…if you would at least cushion it a little, where they don’t have to lay off half their workforce,” said Melati Nungsari, assistant professor of economics at the Asia School of Business.
“My nightmare is that there will be these mass firings after Raya,” she told the webinar hosted by Research for Social Advancement (REFSA) entitled Post-Covid-19: What lies ahead for Malaysian youths?
“I won’t mention which company, but a CEO of a food-delivery platform recently said 40% to 50% of F&B (food and beverage) outlets will close in the next couple of months. That is just a staggering number.”
Other speakers include former Talentcorp CEO Shareen Abdul Ghani and Khazanah Research Institute research associate Mohd Amirul Rafiq Abu Rahim.
The webinar discussed employment issues brought on by the coronavirus outbreak and the challenges faced by young jobseekers in the immediate term.
The speakers all agreed that Putrajaya could do more to support the private sector.
“There may not be structural changes, but we cannot run away from creating high-value jobs,” said Amirul.
Shareen said the government may need to invest further to train plumbers, electricians and other trades currently done by foreign workers.
The Malaysians@Work initiative, launched by Pakatan Harapan last year to create an additional 350,000 jobs for graduates within five years, is no longer going to be feasible, Shareen said.
Melati also criticised the “severe lack” of government data.
“How can you make good policy if you don’t actually now what you’re dealing with. One thing that would really help is to help make data available.”
Keep options open
The US-trained economist does not expect Perikatan Nasional to prioritise structural reforms in the labour market after taking over Putrajaya in February.
“I do not see that happening in the next year or even by next election,” she said, adding that she does not see any other “traditional” way to generate growth in the face of the outbreak.
She encouraged the youth to participate in online programmes, such the rapid youth success entrepreneurship (RYSE), sponsored by Citibank.
“The thing is, no one really knows exactly what should be done. But I do know that we will eventually get out of this. My advice to young people is to think short term, to get over the Covid hump and maybe to accept jobs that aren’t so great.
“Maybe do more gig works that you may not like. Maybe, you may end up liking it and keep it long term. But nobody can tell you how exactly things will get better. For now, you can hedge against uncertainty by keeping your options open.”
Melati also encouraged youth to take up offers for free online courses by universities.
“Take advantage of that. Think of the money people normally pay when it’s not all free. Use this time to pad your resumes with certain skills. Do this, while staying afloat and just try to get through this.” – TMI