Sin Chew Daily
The global economy has come under tremendous impact from the coronavirus scourge. Many companies are on the brink of collapse, while millions of employees may go out of work.
Bank Negara has earlier predicted that Malaysia's unemployment rate could surge to 4% because of the outbreak, but some experts are of the view that Bank Negara has been excessively optimistic.
MIER estimated in March that if the MCO were to be extended for a protracted period of time, as many as 2.4 million people in this country could become jobless, with unskilled workers making up almost 67% of them.
In addition, MEF executive director Shamsuddin Bardan has predicted that the country's job market may be under unprecedented stress as a consequence of the coronavirus, and post-MCO unemployment rate is projected to reach a high of 13%, or two million people out of work, far worse than during the Asian financial crisis in 1998 or the global financial crisis in 2009.
Two million is a very frightening number, and the government must do its utmost to prevent this worst-case scenario from becoming reality.
Despite the disparity between the projections made by Bank Negara and MEF, both have agreed that unemployment rate is set to rise rapidly. Based on such an understanding, it is imperative that the government adopt proactive steps to stop this massive unemployment tide.
As a matter of fact, unemployment rates in many countries have soared through the roof because of the virus. In South Korea, the government disbursed as much as 898.2 billion won (approximately RM3.2 billion) in unemployment benefits in March, a drastic 40.4% surge compared to a year ago. In the United States, some 22 million people applied for unemployment benefits in four weeks.
Sky-high unemployment figures are not just cold numbers for the job market but they entail the development of the entire society and the well-being of the people. Unrealistically high unemployment rate will further bruise the country's economic development, as it means a sharp decline in overall consumerism.
As if that is not enough, people who have lost their jobs will concurrently suffer heightened pressure of life and this is poised to give rise to a string of undesirable social and family repercussions.
The government must take active preventive measures before the situation ever gets to this stage, by improving the overall economic environment and suitably assisting local businesses to prevent companies from going bust one after another, triggering a massive domino effect.
The government has earlier unveiled an economic stimulus package to help the SMEs but this alone is not enough. Of course, SMEs should not just wait for government help and do nothing. They must strive to seek a breakthrough during such a difficult time by harnessing sophisticated technologies to transform their operations.
Meanwhile, the local job market's prospect remains bleak and Malaysians should be adequately prepared for such an eventuality by working hard to enhance their competitiveness as well as their own worth in order to retain their maket edge.
At the same time, they must also institute smart financial planning strategies and hold back unnecessary expenses to make sure they have sufficient economic strength to ride out the current crisis.