We do not want the schools to churn out unemployable graduates in sheer waste of precious education resources.
Prime minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said he was disappointed with the low salaries offered by corporate employers as well as job nature unmatched by academic qualifications, meaning even if a worker has the tertiary qualification and works hard, he does not get the remunerations he deserves.
According to MyFutureJobs, most of the openings available at this moment pay between RM1,200 and RM2,000 a month.
If we were to refer to the Statistics Department’s figures, Malaysian fresh graduates’ salaries ranged between RM2,000 and RM2,500 per month in 2019. Monthly salaries fell 9% in 2020, with the average monthly pay of a 24-year-old being RM1,949, those aged between 25 and 34 at RM3,371, and RM5,336 for those aged between 35 and 44.
Those aged between 35 and 44 have presumably worked for 20 years and should be mid-level managers or professional technicians, but their median pay is only RM4,850, which if converted to Singapore dollars is only S$1,515, the minimum wage for entry-level workers in the city-state.
Malaysia’s basic pay is only RM1,500 in 2022, compared to RM3,740 in Taiwan and RM1,705 in China. As for neighbouring Singapore, an entry-level worker can look forward to at least RM4,500 a month.
As for university graduates, few Malaysian companies will offer more than RM2,500 a month, compared to RM7,000 in Singapore, RM5,000 in Taiwan and between RM3,500 and RM10,000 in China.
With such a low-pay environment, how do we expect talented Malaysians, especially the younger ones, to stay in the country? They can only change their career destinies if they go abroad.
In the past, we used to encourage our children to study hard so that they could go to a university in future and have more career choices to liberate themselves and their families from the shackles of poverty.
But today, we have more than enough university graduates. For a 2+2 twinning programme, the estimated tuition ad miscellaneous fees would sum up to around half a million ringgit over four years, while a fresh graduate only gets an annual pay of RM30,000!
It looks like the ROI for a university education is pathetically low, especially if you pursue a course not in demand.
Can we therefore deduce that the low starting pay could be because the students don’t learn what the job market actually wants?
The PM has said the government is now actively developing a “talent pool” that is skilled, productive and has high potential. He also said the human resources ministry would discuss with employers and employee representatives to identify the best approach and solution to this problem.
However, given the limited resources of the ministry and the massive numbers of employers and employees involved, this proposal is easier said than done.
Instead of developing a “talent pool”, why not inspect whether the thousands of undergraduate programmes being offered at the country’s 105 tertiary institutions (including 20 public universities, 33 government technical institutions, 32 private universities, nine private university colleges and 11 local campuses of foreign universities) meet the needs of today’s job market? And we haven’t even mentioned tens of thousands of Malaysians studying overseas each year!
Universiti Malaya announced earlier this month to discontinue 20 academic programmes deemed to no longer meet today’s social development and market needs. This decision is meant to help the students get the jobs that match their qualifications upon graduation.
Additionally, UM will also remodel another 50 programmes in hope of producing more marketable graduates to meet the needs of the country’s Industry 4.0 initiative.
If even UM, the country’s top-rated university, needs to discontinue 20 programmes and remodel 50 others, more so should the other 104 tertiary institutions in the country with their thousands of courses on offer!
This is an act of responsibility as we do not want the schools to churn out unemployable graduates in sheer waste of precious education resources.
Given the rapid pace of technological advancement, the renewal cycle of knowledge becomes shorter and shorter, from a hundred years in the 18th century down to just about three years now. A new book published today may not be relevant any more three months later, and the knowledge a student picks up at the university may just become obsolete by the time he graduates.
As such, universities and the knowledge of their professors must keep abreast of the fast changing times in order to groom the talents required by the industry.
The success of the country’s Shared Prosperity Vision 2030 will very much depend on the implementation of the 12th and 13th five-year Malaysia Plans. The programmes offered at local universities must be able to prepare the students for their future careers, or the government’s plans and allocations will be crippled by lack of suitably qualified personnel.
And the result: we will have plenty of jobs with few eligible takers, and our job market is inundated with large numbers of job-seekers and underpaid graduates.