Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Graduate Unemployment; Life is not a Bunch of Roses

Title: Graduate Unemployment; Life is not a Bunch of Roses
Back in the late 80’s and early 90’s, when unemployment high, we had the same problem. My ex-uncle in law (he was married to my auntie) who worked at Pusat Islam told me a story that some government department were given a budget to employ these graduates, a salary of RM400 per month, a desk but nothing to do – a stereotype government job. Some of the more enterprising graduates opened burger stall and drink kiosk by the roadside. Graduate unemployment is not new. We read about it in the past year. Recent figure indicates that the number is around 80,000 and rising.
Blames on the root of this problem has been passed around like a soccer ball, from the tertiary institution for offering courses that is not needed in the marketplace to economist for predicting the wrong demand sector.
The economy has been in growth mode for some years now, unemployment at record low, and employers are recruiting foreign workers in their thousands. We might think that the current drive to repatriate illegal immigrants would open up jobs to locals, but it is more complicated than that. Tertiary graduates have higher expectations about jobs that they apply.
They avoid 3D criteria – DANGEROUS, DIRTY and DEMEANING (jobs that doesn’t bring prestige). By eliminating jobs that has these criteria; construction jobs, factory works and farm works, their choices become limited. Well this is just a generalisation; there are quite a number of graduates who would do anything given chance and good salary, good on them. A lot of it has to do with expectations, what society expect of them and their attitude towards hard work.
As a society, Malaysians still have remnants of feudal attitudes. We groom our children to think that certain jobs are beneath them. Even worse, we pressurise our children to achieve whatever our dream job that we couldn’t achieve ourselves e.g. sending our kids for ballet lessons or medical school – it doesn’t matter that the kid is not interested, he or she will get used to it. We always want them to aspire for better things in life – well, there is nothing wrong with that, but when thing doesn’t turn out as we plan, we should just get on with it. As they say in English, life is not a bunch of roses. Employers aggravate the situation by offering low, starvation rate wages and limiting their workers upward potential. Government and our elected representatives did their part in worsening the situation by letting employers exploit workers with impunity, suppressing union movements and opening a floodgate of immigrant workers from neighbouring countries to keep wages low.
If there is a problem called graduate unemployment, the problem lies in their attitude towards hard work and the types of job that they coveted.
Fact is, graduates are the best brains in the country, and they represent our best bet in our country’s competitiveness in the future. Let them do whatever jobs available, it does not matter if the job that they do has anything to do with their tertiary training. With their brains and talents, they can improvise, move t the top and be their best in their chosen field.


Anonymous said...

Maybe it's time we stop telling our children "Study hard, you'll get a good job, good money...," but tell them "work hard, get enough money so you can further your studies." Well, if we can accept "Eat to live, not live to eat..."

But then, how do you expect a 7-year old to work and earn money? For him. it's still "study first, work later." Maybe we can start this with SPM holders, if society agrees, and universities be more prepared to accept mature candidates and have more part time programs as a norm, while industries and govt be prepared to give study leave, part time or full time.

nooryahaya said...

In NZ, Australia and...mature students, part time students, housewife students are normal. Life is about continuous improvement. The best investment you can make is in yourself.

Anonymous said...

80,000 then but how many now? Is it really more or less? What happens next year? What is the trend?

We need more light on the subject. Is it correct to guess that these are mainly IT students, MARA sponsored to govt and private institutions, and mainly Malay? What proportion are from local compared to foreign institutions?

Surely geography, history,politics, literature, religious studies, arts are not so encouraged compared to law, accountancy and business admin. Why not just shut down or reduce the intake of courses and sponsorships that produce unemployable grads?

And why not have a surplus of 800 or 8000 doctors, pharmacists, nurses instead?

Anonymous said...

Hard work leads to economic stable life? Prove it.

Different times with totally different economics. Contractors everywhere and jobs that pay the same as it did yesterday or maybe even less. There is a massive supply of labor all over the world which means wages won't go up and new hires will be paid far less than what is livable for their market.

Anyone who wants to be successful and have a good life learns really quick, use leverage. You want to do the greatest amount of work with the least amount of effort. Or you want the greatest amount of profit with the least amount of effort. That is how innovation works! You don't go doing hard work using a hand drawn plow to plant seed in the field and expect to have a large harvest.

Hard work is what a rich man tells his laborers he wants while he makes a profit while playing golf. He is using the leverage of wealth. Graduates were told to get an education because that was supposed to give them leverage so they had a chance to gain wealth. That education leverage does not exist with an over supply of labor though.

Society is going to have a wake up call soon anyway. The markets have finally been tapped out and unless they open up the loan spigot for all you advice giving hard working people to hold up the market it will crash. Now it is just a matter of watching the average citizen being left holding the bag. And I will return the advice you have given us when we warned you of the problems. You need to work harder and be willing to take any job available. After all, if you work hard you will make it. It has nothing to do with leverage, or chance or location. Just good old fashioned hard work and you can be rich too.

Remember! Hard work is what your employer wants you to do for them as long as possible. Stay stupid and work hard. You will get ahead. Pats you on the head. Your college degree is worthless, welcome to the club. Now get out there and flip burgers, I’m sure you will make it big!