It is true that the pandemic has caused many Malaysians to lose their jobs and those who still have one are grateful to be able to continue to support themselves and their family through these difficult times.
However, recent remarks made by economic affairs minister Mustapa Mohamed were seen as insensitive by some fresh graduates who are currently struggling to juggle their work-life balance.
One Twitter user commented, “Those who have recently graduated, know the pain of working so damn hard for so little pay. They are willing to sacrifice, but are stuck because of so few opportunities.”
Another Twitter user lamented, “Bills and rent hardly dents you but for so many, it is their entire income with nothing left to save. It does not mean they are not grateful for their jobs. It means there is a feeling of unfairness, often rightfully so.”
According to Malaysiakini, the minister said that graduates should be grateful to have a job, even if the salary is low because there are others who are unemployed. He said this was due to a weak job market resulting from the economy shrinking 5.6 percent in 2020.
“It could have been worse without the measures taken by the government.
“So to me, graduates who are employed should be grateful despite the low salary as there are many others who are jobless.
“We expect that once the economy begins to recover this year, it is possible for salaries to increase,” he said in a media conference at Universiti Malaysia Kelantan, responding to a question concerning the salaries of graduates that have been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.
This struck a nerve with former human resources minister M Kula Segaran who highlighted that the government is failing to create new jobs and that the blame should not be put on the fresh graduates.
According to Kula in a statement on FMT, “As a sitting minister, I find that it is utterly irresponsible for him to say graduates should be grateful if they get a job even with a low salary. It is his job to ensure that graduates do not have to settle for low salaries. It is not their fault entirely when the government’s policies seem inadequate.”
Acting as a strong voice for the youths, he defended the upset sentiments of fresh graduates by prompting structural change in the economy so youths can be utilised for their particular set of skills while being paid reasonably.
The minister continued by saying, “By paying youths low wages equivalent to minimum wage, we have under-utilised the potential of youth in the country. Policies must be drawn up to address this. If nothing is done soon, our graduates will be in a very precarious situation.”
At the time of writing, Kula is calling for the parliament to reconvene so this matter can be addressed immediately.