Job opportunities top consumers main concern

By ASILA JALIL / Pic BLOOMBERG

MORE job opportunities for the high-income group were seen in the fourth quarter of last year (4Q20), in contrast to the situation faced by the low- and middle-income groups who were not as privileged.

The Malaysian Institute of Economic Research (MIER) Consumer Sentiment Index revealed that consumers were not happy with the labour market in 4Q20 as only 8% saw an increase in job opportunities in the quarter.

Of the respondents, 67% — the highest percentage on record since the inception of the survey in 1988 — thought that it was difficult to land a job.

“Categorically, those who saw more jobs up for grabs in 4Q20 were largely from the high-income group, urban areas and the eastern region, with 10%, 8% and 11% saying so, respectively.

“Pessimism is higher among those in the low-and middle-income brackets, urban and rural areas, as well as in the southern region, with proportions of negative responses totalling between 66% and 75% in 4Q20,” MIER’s Consumer Sentiments survey report stated yesterday.

The index lost 6.3 points in the quarter to come in at 85.2 points with all the components that comprised the index registering lower in the quarter, especially current finances.

It is the lowest reading in three quarters and stayed below the 100-point threshold level of confidence, indicating that consumers are losing faith in the economy and their wellbeing going forward.

Household finances by year-end were the weakest in nine months.

Although 47% of respondents did not see any change in their incomes in 4Q20, those who enjoyed better finances fell to 11% from 16% in 3Q20.

“Respondents who reported being worse-off than before also rose to a three-quarter high of 42%, surpassing even the previous year’s 40%.

“Positive responses this quarter were lower than last quarter in all categories of income, location and region, except for the northern region.

“The eastern region lost the most votes this time around, with 16% reporting higher incomes compared to 28% last quarter,” it said.

The reduced wealth hit those in the low-income group, rural areas and the southern region the hardest with negative replies standing between 44% and 53%.

As for the finances outlook, 21% of the respondents were expecting for their financial situation to worsen soon, while 22% anticipated higher incomes in the coming months.

The job outlook for early this year also remains subdued as most respondents opined that availability of jobs will decrease further or remain unchanged in the months ahead.

“Among those who are expecting more vacancies to open up soon are the high-income, urban, northern and eastern households, with votes totalling 24% to 29%.

“Of those who responded negatively, most of the responses totalling 36% to 43% were contributed by those in the low-income, urban, rural and southern region categories,” it said.