Graduates flexible despite underemployment

When better work comes along, they will be better prepared with more experience and a better understanding of how to deal with tough times, says Williams


THE increasing underemployment of graduates is not a reflection of their lack of qualification, rather it is because industries are not offering enough high-skilled jobs.

Malaysia University of Science and Technology professor Dr Geoffrey Williams said nonetheless, these graduates have displayed flexibility and adaptability in accepting lower-skilled work and are doing a good job.

“When better work comes along, they will be better prepared with more experience and a better understanding of how to deal with tough times,” Williams, who is also the director of Williams Business Consultancy Sdn Bhd, told The Malaysian Reserve.

The Department of Statistics Malaysia’s (DoSM) Graduates Statistics 2020 revealed that the rate of skill-related underemployment among graduates rose to 31.2% compared to 26.7% in 2019, recording a total of 1.36 million persons.

Chief statistician Datuk Seri Dr Mohd Uzir Mahidin said the situation was more pronounced among diploma graduates at a rate of 46.1%, while degree graduates posted a 19.2% of skill-related underemployment rate.

“This could also be corroborated by the lower number of total job vacancies in the economic sector during the year 2020 as stated in Employment Statistics Report released by DoSM, of which the number of skilled job vacancies declined 16.1%, while semi-skilled and low-skilled jobs decreased at lower rate of negative 9.5% and negative 9.7% respectively.

“Skill-related underemployment, which has been a structural labour market issue with the rates hovering between 22% and 26% since the series began in 2016, had escalated as the pandemic struck last year,” he said in a statement.

Unfavourable economic environment in 2020 and its consequences to the overall labour market situation had increased the number of unemployed graduates notably by 22.5% (+37,200 persons) to 202,400 persons (165,200 in 2019).

Williams said these statistics showed the resilience of the graduates, contrary to the negative “not prepared for the labour market” story often heard.

“It shows how flexible and ready they are to rise to the challenge in difficult times,” he added.

Moving forward, he said it is important to not allow unemployment and underemployment to become the norm.

Williams believed everything should be done to promote new forms of employment, new innovative companies and start-ups for graduates post-pandemic.

“Difficult as it is, it can be used as a catalyst for a better work environment in the future, not a return to the past.

“This means liberalising markets, promoting entrepreneurs, freeing up opportunities, less government interference, making life simpler for micro and small and medium enterprises.

“We must also promote decent, well-paid jobs with good work-life balance and long-term flexibility and security,” he concluded.