Juita Mohamad was quoted in Fee Malaysia Today article.

by Imran Ariff, 16 March 2021

PETALING JAYA: Economists have said that job creation and upskilling make up an essential part of economic recovery which comes after a year in which unemployment has reached levels not seen in decades due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Unemployment rose dramatically following the implementation of the first movement control order a year ago, peaking at 5.3% in May, despite having not topped 4% in nearly 30 years, according to the Department of Statistics.

Since then, the Perikatan Nasional government has implemented a number of aid measures such as the Prihatin, Penjana and Kita Prihatin packages, featuring various job retention and generation programmes.

Presenting a report on the Economic Stimulus Implementation and Coordination Unit (Laksana), finance minister Tengku Zafrul Aziz said RM13.6 billion had found its way into the hands of nearly 3.2 million workers through the three wage subsidy programmes, thus helping to avoid retrenchments.

Some 131,568 Malaysians have been able to secure employment in sectors such as manufacturing, wholesale and retail through the Recruitment Incentive Programme and Training Assistance.

Juita Mohamad of think tank Institute of Strategic and International Studies said the focus on protecting jobs is inevitably important given the current circumstances.

In addition to helping people to stay employed, she said improving employability is a must.

“Reskilling and upskilling of workers is needed during the pandemic and also beyond to produce a resilient workforce in the near future,” she told FMT.

These skills development programmes have also been on the government’s agenda, with 136,927 participating in the ministry’s numerous reskilling and training programmes so far.

Universiti Putra Malaysia’s Abu Sofian Yaacob said the government’s efforts to generate jobs, while impressive, must be followed by longer term strategies.

“Giving handouts is for the short-term. We still need to create new industries which create more job opportunities for the long run.”

He also highlighted the importance of technical and vocational training to improve the skillsets of workers, allowing them access to a wider range of higher paying jobs.

Juita identified underemployment and historically low wages as areas the government should look into going forward to improve economic sustainability.

“There needs to be more skilled jobs vacancies offered by employers in the near future to attract skilled Malaysians and foreigners into our industries and our country,” she said.

This article was first published in Fee Malaysia Today on 16 March 2021

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