Covid-19 & Employability In Malaysia

The COVID-19 pandemic a global health crisis had an expanded effect on the socioeconomic and humanitarian aspects of life since its first outbreak. Malaysia and other countries had implemented lockdown measures and restriction policies, to slow down the spread of the disease which came at the expense of economic growth. Those containment measures enforced by the government had caused business closures, loss of employment, higher unemployment rates, lower labour participation and reduction in working hours. According to the Malaysia Department of Statistics, the unemployment rate increased from 3.2% in the fourth quarter of 2019 to 3.5% in the first quarter of 2020 and reaching 4.8% by the fourth quarter of 2020. The World Bank’s Malaysia Economic Monitor, claimed that after several months of mobility restrictions and business closures there was a 17.1% year-on-year drop in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the second quarter of 2020.

Now, after people weathering the pandemic and moving towards an era of endemic, the Malaysia’s Department of Statistics recorded the unemployment rate edged down by 4.1% in February 2022. This includes the yearly new entrant of incoming fresh graduates on top of those who had lost jobs during the pandemic.
Government Initiative
Malaysia government had played fundamental roles in getting the recovery phase of pandemic on the way. Responding towards the socioeconomic effect of the pandemic, multiple initiatives had been launched by the government. From the start of lockdown to the recovery period, financial support packages particularly Prihatin, Penjana and Pemulih had been unveiled to address the crisis especially in providing comprehensive assistance to people and sustaining the economy as employment was concerned. Since the Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises (SMEs) are the backbone of the economy with its 38.9% contribution to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and 48.4% to employment in Malaysia in 2019 according to Department of Statistics, the government provided a thrustful assistance to the sector particularly with loan moratorium, wage subsidies programmes and loan restructuring schemes. Able to maintain cash flow, SMEs could continue their business activities and retain employment. Corporates too was extended with Danajamin PRIHATIN Guarantee Scheme for financing working capital requirement in sustaining their business operation and safeguarding jobs. While  strengthening the economy the government focused on the domestic investment of infrastructure projects ranging from the small project such as road care to project of Mass Rapid Transit Line 2 (MRT2) which had been identified with high multiplier effects in preserving jobs. There was also, Dana PENJANA Nasional to support digitalisation of Malaysian businesses by channelling funding from international investors into the local venture capital space and therefore indirectly promoting the employability in the digital industry. As employment as concerned, the government’s thrust by empowering people to promote employment prospects through the hiring incentive programme, mobility programmes, training program of reskilling and upskilling for the employer’s need in their company and on-job-training opportunity. With university graduates adding on to the unemployment pool, Career Advancement Programmes of Ministry of Higher Education (MOHE-CAP) was employed to address the issues of unemployed graduates with programmes of ‘Place and Train’, entrepreneurship training and gig economy preparation training. Moreover, under the Budget 2022, Malaysia Short-Term Employment Programmes (MySTEP) offered 80,000 contract jobs in public sectors and government affiliates from January 2022.


The Changing Trend
The COVID-19 crisis had accustomed the nature of work worldwide from working on-site whether office, school and et cetera to home-based work. While some industries are able to operate from home, Chernoff and Warman (2020) argued in their article on COVID-19 and Implications for Automation that the pandemic may accelerate the automation of jobs as employers invest in new technologies and processes. Although the Fourth Industrial Revolution (IR4.0) already transformed the labour industry in Malaysia especially with Internet of Thing (IoT) to certain extent, Amanina Abdul Rahman and colleagues (2020) demonstrated in their study of The Vulnerability of Jobs to COVID-19 in Malaysia that more than half of Malaysians have jobs that are either not conducive to home-based work or involve high levels of physical proximity and are therefore most vulnerable during a prolonged crisis. On the other hand, as Malaysian starts transiting towards an endemic phase on April 1, 2022, the home-based work continues to be the mode of choice for certain employer and yet companies such as Permodalan Nasional Bhd (PNB) and Citi Malaysia started exploring the possibility of permanent home-based work option.

Considering the impact of pandemic crisis on the workforce, it has changed the job market perspective to certain extent. Whilst the nature of economy is dynamic, the time trend revolutionised the job outlook on particular group of people. The onset of coronavirus pandemic had amplified the participation in gig economy particularly in Malaysia. For example, the lockdown has accustomed increased reliance on the gig workers to home-deliver necessities to consumer. In fact, the unprecedented period had caused blue and white-collar employees to pursue gig work for additional income. The outbreak also opened up opportunist entrepreneurs spotting a niche market. For example, disinfectant fogging services, face masks and sanitiser enterprises fuelled new business opportunities in developing new venture. It offered advancement for digital entrepreneurs and others manoeuvring operation with digitalisation. Online business have become the norm and now leads the digital economy into a new direction.
It is unquestionable that the coronavirus pandemic had changed the work landscape everywhere in the world. It has also brought about a new job perspective on the dynamism of matter to a ‘new normal’ level. COVID-19 resonates the importance of adaptability in evolving with a new established order.

Blog by Wan Hazree.