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More people taking lowly-paid work, says economist

PETALING JAYA: Although Malaysia’s unemployment figure has fallen, the number of those self-employed has risen by 20,100 with most of them in lowly-paid work, says an economist.

Geoffrey Williams of the Malaysia University of Science and Technology said the quality of jobs and the level of salaries remain low.

He said the fall in unemployment should not be attributed to improved economic and social conditions or government policies.

The greater number of self-employed are mainly daily wage earners in small and medium enterprises or gig economy workers on low salaries with very little job security and no extra benefits, he said.

People had no option but to work and to take any job, despite the low wages, he said.

He urged the government to take another look at its development plans, saying “a new model” was needed as there is a structural problem in the labour market.

“We have to link employment with wages, otherwise we get more people employed on lower wages and that is not as positive as the numbers suggest,” he said.

The statistics department reported recently that the number of unemployed Malaysians fell to below 700,000 in November, the lowest since April 2020. The chief statistician, Mohd Uzir Mahidin, said that the labour situation in November was steady and with continuing employment growth.

Malaysian Trades Union Congress deputy president Mohd Effendy Abdul Ghani said the threat of underemployment would be temporary. “Give it some time. When the economy improves, we believe workers’ salaries will go up,” he said.

The government must focus on providing job opportunities for locals by attracting them with higher salaries, especially for jobs deemed as dirty, dangerous and difficult (3D jobs), he added.


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