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Malaysia’s SPV has factored in tech disruption

Malaysia aims to become a high-income nation but issues like stagnant wages and an uncertain job market have proven to be stubborn obstacles.

The Pakatan Harapan government is hoping that it’s Shared Prosperity Vision 2030 (SPV2030) will address these challenges and more.

In implementing SPV 2030, the government aims to increase annual incomes which will lead to stronger spending power and a more robust economy.

Almost all agreed that Malaysia has the capability to move into a high-skilled, high-income economy but it needs a combination of the right kind of policies and political will to implement these ideas.

Re-skilling the workforce

The Deputy Director of Khazanah Research Institute stated that policies should address premature deindustrialisation, as well as the potential risk of technology displacing mid-skilled jobs — so it is not just about addressing low-skilled jobs.

The aim is to have balanced labour supply policies such as upgrading the skills of workers, with labour demand policies which are creating jobs and drawing the right kind of investments into the country. This is because reports show that Malaysian graduates are taking up semi-skilled jobs.

A nimble and updated Industrial Policy must be put in place. This policy must be responsive to business needs and economic cycles.

As the Industrial Master Plan (IMP) 2006-2020 comes to an end next year, it is the ideal time to put in place the next IMP that addresses the new industrial and technological challenge for Malaysia.

The changing nature of jobs, coupled with up-and-down business cycles, has wider implications on social protection.

If future jobs are non-standard and informal then there is the need to provide sufficient safety nets to avoid social and economic risks.

The government has set up the Malaysian Social Protection Council to establish a social protection plan. It is hoped that some issues in the changing labour market will be addressed soon.

Needless to say, the workforce has to keep abreast of new technological developments in their area of work. This is imperative if Malaysia is to join the Industrial Revolution 4.0.

However, this does not mean abandoning technical and vocational education and training (TVET) programmes. These are still needed to cater to students who do not wish to pursue university degrees but want to opt for vocational training.

Diversifying skillsets

In order for the workforce to be better equipped, it is important to not only own one set of skills but multiple sets of skills. Future Malaysians should be the ones to code the next generation of machines, build them and operate them.

The education sector must, therefore, change with the times and think about what jobs will be on offer in the next five, 10 or 15 years as SPV2030 aims to move into the new high-end job market.

Meanwhile, employers will play a pivotal part in ensuring the transition to a high-skilled workforce but it will not happen overnight.

Many industries in Malaysia still use old machines for production as their workers are more comfortable and familiar with them, as they are not equipped with the knowledge to handle modern high-technology machinery.

This is no excuse for Malaysians to not adapt to a changing environment, as given proper training and time, workers will be able to familiarise themselves with modern machinery.

Special attention must be given to the B40 group as they are struggling the most. Ideally, the aim is to see the annual wage for an average household to be increased from the current average of RM90,000 per annum to around RM125,000.

Boosting inclusivity and fairness

Part of SPV2030’s aim is to move away from race-based policies and be a fair model, prioritising the B40 but without leaving other Malaysians behind.

While this is good for the early days of its implementation, it cannot be a long-term solution; a proper timeline for execution is needed.

Recently, Malaysia’s Education Minister stated that despite the high number of graduates with a first-class degree, youth unemployment remains high because of the lack of digital skills.

According to DOSM, the current unemployment rate is at 3.3 per cent, roughly around 542,800 unemployed personnel.

Youth unemployment has increased steadily from 9.94 per cent in 2011 to 10.92 per cent in 2018. It is felt that by equipping graduates with the right digital skills through public-private cooperation, this skills and knowledge gap can be fixed to make youths more competitive.

A professor from the Universiti Sains Malaysia stated that the phenomenon of job loss as a result of technological advancement is not new.

Job mismatch and losses have occurred throughout history. The mentality needs to be changed from one of merely job seeking to one of job creation and job adaptation.

In addition, changing technology doesn’t recognise ethno-religious affiliations, so for those who fail to adapt, the state can probably provide avenues to cushion the impact, but even such measures can’t be long term.

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