Be specific on when employers will offer living wage, PSM asks MEF

LOW starting salaries and underemployment has always been a problem in Malaysia, even before COVID-19 came along and ravaged the entire globe.

“It’s just very convenient for employers to blame COVID-19 and the recession now just to avoid brickbats from the public.

“And our Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) had always dragged its feet on offering market rate salaries and minimum wage as it prioritised profits over workers’ well-being.

“Can MEF suggest at which point of our economy they will offer higher minimum wage and eradicate stagnation is salaries?” Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) youth wing secretary N Gandipan asked, when contacted by FocusM.

Last week, The Edge reported the Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) as saying that low starting pay for fresh graduates is a temporary problem, which will ease once the economy recovers.

N Gandipan

“We would advise graduates not to be too concerned by the current low starting pay as employers value employees with good performance and higher productivity.

“Once the employee begins to contribute and perform, they would be rewarded accordingly,” its president Datuk Dr Syed Hussain Syed Husman was reported saying.

According to Department of Statistics Malaysia, the number of graduates working below their academic qualification has soared to 22%, or 1.89 million, as of end 2020, compared to the same period in 2019.

The situation was exacerbated with COVID-19 triggered economic downturn, which made engineers, aircraft pilots and other professionals taking small jobs after losing their employment.

In terms on unemployment, nearly two million people are out of jobs due to various reasons, including the pandemic triggered recession.

Jobs Guarantee Scheme needed

Gandipan said that for the sake of attracting investments, the Government had always tweaked its policies to go as low as possible, which includes wages.

“That is why we’re still struggling to get the Government to increase the minimum wage to a reasonable level.”

He added that right now, Malaysians are facing a problem where more graduates are flooding the job market, while job opportunities are dwindling.

The issue was exacerbated by employers who hire foreigners for unskilled and low skilled jobs, which eventually suppress wages for locals.

“But we also have a situation where our employers hire expatriates to work here, who demand higher salaries and perks than what a local citizen would be earning in the same capacity,” Gandipan opined.

On that note, the PSM leader urged the Government to come up with a Jobs Guarantee Scheme to mitigate the issue, by identifying industries that could invest and create job opportunities, which in turn can offer a living wage for its staffers.

Among the sectors the Government could venture into are healthcare, social workers, green technology (from research and development to industrialisation) and education.

“By guaranteeing quality jobs that offers fair living wages, this scheme will pressure the private sector to increase initial salaries for the jobs they offer and increase the job quality too.

“Otherwise, the people would rather wait for a Government job than being employed in the private sector,” Gandipan remarked. – April 15, 2021.

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