Provide social environment to woo youths into ‘dull’ industries

3D jobs are perceived as tiresome and boring


EMPLOYERS in the construction and plantation sectors must think of ways to create a conducive social environment to attract youths into a “dull” industry.

Malaysian Youth Council president Jufitri Joha believed the lack of willingness among the youths to take up dirty, dangerous and difficult (3D) jobs are mainly due to the nature of those sectors which they perceive as tiresome and boring.

As palm oil plantations are usually located in rural areas and away from entertainment, he said the social environment needs to be considered on top of financial incentives.

“Other aspects include the use of modern technology in agriculture like the many initiatives provided under the National Technology and Innovation Sandbox by the Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry.

“The same goes to constructions, where the use of technology to facilitate the construction of buildings must be increased,” he told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR).

Even before the pandemic, the construction and plantation sectors were already experiencing labour shortages, but the situation worsened since the borders closed.

However, on the bright side, Jufitri described the Covid-19 pandemic as a game-changer that skyrocketed the gig economy and gave many jobs to the youth.

“Nowadays, many youngsters participate in the gig economy because they do not want to be cooped up in one place for long periods,” he added.

National Union of Plantation Workers executive secretary A Navamukundan said considering the current situation, employers must come up with a strategy to rope in young people for longterm employment.

“We cannot continue to depend solely on foreign workers. Competitive wages and improved social benefits are among the factors that can attract the locals.

“This prolonged issue must be resolved soon because the shortage of workers in plantations, especially harvesters, affects palm fruit quality,” he told TMR.

He said the palm fruit are usually ready to be harvested in 10 to 13 days. With the shortage of workers, this will take a long time and there would be more work to be done.

“After two weeks, the ripe palm fruit would fall naturally and become scattered. The extra work of cleaning them up will also impact the quality.

“This situation has affected the output and supply of palm oil in the domestic and world markets,” he explained.

Meanwhile, a planter who requested anonymity, told TMR that many efforts have been taken by companies to attract local youths including attractive wages, medical coverage and other facilities.

“A harvester can earn more than the minimum wage a month, depending on how hard they work, while the cost of amenities such as housing, water and electricity is incurred by the employer.

“But in this sector, local youths usually prefer to work in the factory, office and as lorry drivers,” he added.

Crude palm oil price closed at a fresh high of RM4,053 a tonne for the benchmark month on Bursa Malaysia Derivatives Exchange on March 11, up RM79 for the day and RM315 for the week.

Despite the high price, the planter said plantation companies could not benefit from it because of the shortage of workers.

The Labour Recalibration Plan announced in November last year, which allows the employment of undocumented workers, was not of much help for the industry, the planter said.

“Most foreigners who come to the country to work in this industry were not illegal, to begin with, so the plan did not really change anything. Meanwhile, we cannot hire foreign workers who were retrenched from other industries like construction.

“We cannot put our hopes in the locals. The only way to address this issue is by allowing us to hire foreign workers like pre-pandemic times,” he added.

On March 8, 12 plantation associations in a joint statement made an urgent appeal to the government to effectively address the acute shortage of workers and tax issues, as well as the market access, which are fast eroding the industry’s competitiveness.

The associations sought the formulation and implementation of a top-level strategy to address the labour shortage issue in the oil palm sector in Malaysia.

It included allowing guest workers who are currently in their respective countries of origin to return to Malaysia, as well as to put an end to the current pause in foreign worker recruitment in the plantation sector.

“The Sarawak government’s recent move on allowing foreign workers back into the state is an example that could be emulated throughout the nation.

“The industry would be willing to work closely with the authorities to assure that all standard operating procedures and stringent guidelines will be strictly adhered to and complied with,” they said.

Read our previous report here

Underemployment a hindrance to economic recovery