Youth employment and income most vulnerable to Covid-19

Seen are MTUC moderator Muhammad Zulfadlee Thye (second left), Muhammad Abu Kadir (second right), Zouhair (right) and Muhammad Fitri (left) during the web seminar.

By Adrian Lim

KUCHING, June 14: The youth have been hit with the double whammy of inadequate social security protection and salary cuts due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

During a recent web seminar hosted by the Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) Youth section, Malaysia Youth Council representative Muhammad Abu Kadir Mubarak Ali opined Covid-19 had exposed shortcomings in the country’s social security system which failed to provide protection for the youths.

He believed shortfalls in the social security system and lack of good policies for the youths have affected their livelihood.

“Many youths took the decision to risk their lives in going out on the streets to earn by becoming Grab and FoodPanda drivers.

“When the pandemic struck, many lost their livelihoods overnight. These youths have families to support but … had zero social security coverage.

“Most of them were self-employed and were neither Social Security Organisation (Socso) nor Employees Provident Fund (EPF) contributors. Thus, they did not have any EPF savings to withdraw from.

“Apart from the Bantuan Prihatin Nasional (Prihatin) aid they received for two months, they had nothing to sustain them,” he said during the webinar titled “Covid-19 – Challenges and Survival of Youths”, according to a statement today.

Muhammad Abu Kadir opined that if not for the pandemic, the plight of such employees in informal sectors would have remained ignored, adding that it is now a golden opportunity for the government to put things right, starting with a central database of such workers.

He asserted that the new policies must be comprehensive and ensure the welfare of all workers in the gig economy, including those self-employed are taken care of.

He pointed out that formulating these new policies requires strong political will on the part of the government, but it must be done as the youths are the future of the nation.

Meanwhile, MTUC Youth and organising coordinator for the web seminar Muhammad Fitri Amzah urged the federal government to appreciate the youth as more than 40 per cent of the frontliners helping the government to contain Covid-19 are youths.

“We are the most affected as far as job losses and salary cuts were concerned.

“The government warned employers not to retrench workers during the Movement Control Orders but many of them sacked workers on the same day.

“They could not be bothered and the government could not do anything,” he added.

Muhammad Fitri opined the only solution would be for the federal government to enforce an Emergency Employment Regulation (EER) which would bar employers from laying off workers during such emergencies.

“The MTUC has again called for the federal government to enforce the EER.

“This will be the only solution as we do not know when we are going to face such emergencies,” he added.

Adding on, DM Analytics Sdn Bhd senior researcher Zouhair Rosli disclosed surveys showed that three out of five workers who lost their jobs in recent months were below 40 years of age, with most of them from informal sectors which did not offer any social security net.

He also revealed 2.5 million Malaysians are employed in informal sectors and that the number of youths between the ages of 20 to 30-years-old working in informal sectors doubled from six per cent in 2016 to 12 per cent in 2019, despite having no fixed income.

“Three out of five informal sector workers were earning less than RM4,000 a month and during the pandemic, 50 per cent of them lost their business.

“Those who managed to keep their jobs saw their income reduced by 90 per cent.

“This group admitted that they did not have enough savings even to last for a month,” he highlighted. — DayakDaily