Six ways to address youth unemployment

Youths are, without doubt, one of the most potent forces and resources a country can possess to advance its social and economic development.

Youths are numerous, but they are also full of energy, bravery, and innovative ideas that, if well-coordinated and incorporated into national economic activities, can change social and economic development.

Despite the significance, youths still face several difficulties, with unemployment being one of them. Governments around the world are increasingly aware that high rates of youth wage stagnation can have negative and far-reaching effects on the growth of the global economy.

A substantial body of research indicates that being unemployed while young, particularly for longer periods of time, may have long-term detrimental effects on future earnings and employment prospects, as well as a negative impact on the jobseeker’s mental health and level of happiness.

Although the performance of Southeast Asia and the Pacific region is marginally better in real terms, underemployment is well almost six times higher than that of adults in these regions.

In Malaysia, this issue is also urgent. Malaysia had Southeast Asia’s third-highest young unemployment rate in 2018, after only Indonesia and the Philippines, but it was still 10.9 per cent lower than the regional average of 12.2 per cent for the region and the Pacific.

In Malaysia, youth unemployment rose from 3.26 per cent in 2019, to 4.61 per cent in 2021.

To reduce the severity and perseverance of youth redundancy, local policymakers are stepping up their efforts, aware that as Malaysia climbs the development ladder, future economic growth will increasingly depend on increases in efficiency.

As technological progress advances, it is becoming increasingly important to concoct the nation’s youth for future labour demands.

Young people have trouble finding employment because they lack the necessary skills. They also lack the connections, knowledge, and resources necessary to learn the pertinent or appropriate skills, particularly for young people from low-income families.

Another factor is the growing percentage of Malaysian youths who, particularly from the countryside, fall into the “not in education, employment, or training” category and are, therefore, excluded from various initiatives to combat youth unemployment.

Malaysia’s high youth unemployment rate of 10 per cent, according to Economy Minister Rafizi Ramli, is primarily due to a persistent mismatch between the trained talent produced by local training institutions and the real skills in demand by the market.

Here are several suggestions to address the issue.

Job matching, create welcoming work environment

Facilitating job matching, and creating a stable, welcoming working environment for young workers would be a more long-lasting solution to the problem of youth unemployment. By developing contemporary markets for all Malaysians to increase their competitiveness, whether in urban or rural areas, the government can facilitate job matching and absorbing youths into the labour market.

• TVET is key

The government must help young people find more secure jobs, that pay fairly, and match their qualifications. Technical and vocational education and training (TVET) is essential to bridging the skills gap. TVET should be effective and provide plenty of opportunities for local talent to upskill and reskill to fit the current job market and applications.

• Entrepreneurs drive wealth generation

Entrepreneurship is a potent weapon against youth unemployment. Entrepreneurs are the drivers of wealth-generation through the creation of innovative techniques or solutions. Companies should encourage this type of thinking by providing employees with the opportunity to experiment with new ideas, as well as the resources to put those ideas into action.

• On-the-job training

Helping young people enter the workforce is one of the world’s most urgent development challenges today. By fostering the growth of tomorrow’s skilled workforce, on-the-job training for young employees benefits both the youths and the long-term success of the company. Greater diversity and inclusion are made possible by better work, which closes the gap between education and the labour market.

• Field right player for the right position

Mismatched skills can result in lost opportunities for productive transformation and job creation – raising unemployment, lowering competitiveness, and investor appeal. As a result, public or private resources are then allocated for training under the presumption that acquired qualifications will result in increased wages or employment.

• Bolster social safety net

Last but not least, to support rural livelihoods and assist those in the informal economy in transitioning to the formal economy, the government should also think about creating programmes for youths in rural areas that are focused on job creation and skills training.

The instability that young workers experience in industries like manufacturing, the gig economy, wholesale and retail trade, lodging and food services, and hospitality is another issue. In this case, the government should stop providing direct financial incentives and instead focus on bolstering the social safety net.

Dr Rulia Akhtar is a research fellow at the Ungku Aziz Centre for Development Studies in Universiti Malaya.

This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Twentytwo13.