Parliamentary Speech 26 June 2013
First and foremost I would like to express my utmost gratitude to the people of Bukit Mertajam for giving me this opportunity to represent them in Parliament. The majority bote for Bukit Mertajam is the second highest in the country, thus demonstrating that the people of Bukit Mertajam was loud and clear in seeking change. They aspire for a just government, a clean government and a competent government, and I stand here representing these aspirations.
I thank you His Majesty for his concern for the youth and women of our nation as emplified by his mention of the issues facing these groups in the royal address.
As such, I would like to speak in further details pertaining to the youth and women, especially in the areas of education, jobs, welfare and other socioeconomic issues.
Yes, low unemployment, but what about underemployment?
Firstly, I would like to express the anguish of our youth because unfortunately, the concern showed by His Majesty towards young people is not shared by the government. Recently, we often hear the clamours of our Prime Minister and Cabinet Ministers on our country’s low unemployment rate, which ranges between 3-4%. Three days days ago (01 July), the Minister citing Keynes said that when a country’s unemployment rate is below 4%, we can be deemed to have full employment.
However, we must bear in mind that although the unemployment rate is generally low, the quality of employment is questionable. Government statistics showed that 40% of households in Malaysia have a monthly income below RM1500 while 60% of households have a monthly income below RM3000. And we have not discussed other employment related issues, such as work condition. In other words, there exists a situation of underemployment.
According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), underemployment refers to a situation where a person has a job but could not achieve the full level of employment. For example, a person with a bachelor degree but could only get a job meant for STPM leavers. Or an engineer having to work as a salesperson due to inability to find jobs related to the field of study.
The government is constantly showing off our low unemployment rate, but so far there is no report and data on underemployment.
As such, we should not be overly joyed with the situation where people have jobs but with low pay, mismatched between jobs and qualifications and skills, bad working condition etc. Therefore I request the Minister to provide a thorough report with the relevan data on the unemployment in Malaysia. The report should provide an overall picture but also scoping down to youth and women under employment.
The problem of youth unemployment is a serious one
When Ministers begin to pat each other on the back for the low unemployment rate, the government is essentially trivialising the struggles faced by youth who are outside the job market. According to a joint report by the UN and EPU entitled, “Malaysia: The Millennium Development Goals at 2010”, the unemployment rate of youth between the ages of 15-24 is at 12%, while the unemployment rate of youth between the ages of 20-24 is at 10%.
In other words, school leavers, whether high schools or universities, are not getting jobs. In 2011, a report by the Ministry of Higher Education titled “Graduate Tracer Study Executive Report” showed that out of the 174,464 graduates surveyed, 24.6% are not able to get a job six months after graduation.
The response from the Minister to Bukit Gantang on 26 June 2013 showed that there are currently 75,800 unemployed graduates. This goes on to prove that our education system is incapable of equipping our youth for the job market.
The government subsequently is forced to allocate millions to retrain these young graduates. For instance, last year, the Prime Minister has announced the allocation of RM200 million for a Graduate Employability Taskforce to assist graduates in obtaining jobs. I would like to ask, what is the status and the effectiveness of this programme thus far?
It is puzzling that there is no effort to reform education system itself and the government continues to spend more money to retrain our graduates upon graduation.
Why can’t we improve their employability through a renewal in the education syllabus? For example, the report of the Programme of International Students Assessment (PISA) shows that the abilities of our 15-year olds in reading, science and mathematics are only equivalent to that of 12-year olds in Singapore, South Korea and Hong Kong. Why do our children lag behind others? In actual fact, I believe that our children are capable of competing. The problem is the inadequacy of our education system.
Allow me to give a suggestion. Although I was not educated in a SRJKC, but it is common knowledge that SRJKC students generally perform better in the subject of mathematics. Therefore, I feel that the time has come for the government to put a stop to the relentless conflict with vernacular education institutions and instead, work together and even consult them to rethink our national education system.
The government should change the current orientations of our national education system:
1. Stop the commercialisation of education
Education should not be treated like a commodity for commercial businesses. Today, apart from the 20 IPTAs, there are 365 IPTS which produced about 200,000 graduates each year. The education sector has succumbed to a competition to get customers, that is, the students, and
this will definitely undermine the quality of education.
2. Reassess paper-chase culture
The government should actively intervene to change the current obsession with paper chase. Instead our educational institutions should be further strengthened with the learning of soft skills such as communication skills, critical thinking, problem solving and language skills.
3. Abolish political hegemony
The continual intervention and political restrictions imposed on our educational institutions by the government stifled academic freedom of both students and lecturers leading to the lost of independence and critical thinking. There should be a process of democratisation to free our institutions from the control of partisan politics.
The government must Ubah. Whether we talk about meritocracy or affirmative action, even if the government managed to accommodate everyone into the universities, it is meaningless if our graduates are not able to compete and to get a job.
Women, Family and Community Development Minister should immediately implement 10 outstanding items
I would like to congratulate the Honourable from Batang Lupar for her appointment as the Minister for Women, Family and Community Development. However, I would also like to take this opportunity to remind her that she has a big task ahead. The Minister has to catch up on lost time, time wasted during the administration of the 3 previous ministers. Here, I would like to highlight TEN issues which I consider serious or urgent for her to answer or execute immediately:
- Malaysia has yet to fulfill the objective of CEDAW to have at least 30% of women in decision-making. The current 13th Parliamentary session does not see any increase in the number of women MPs and the representation of women in the state assemblies merely grew from 8% to 11%;
- The investigation and prosecution process for rape cases should be reviewed and improved. Currently, only 1 in 10 reported cases are brought to court (AWAM, The Rape Report 2002) and only about 4-6% of these cases are convicted (WCC, 2008); e.g. the recent court decision on the rape and murder case of Chee Gaik Yap has raised public outrage;
- The sexual offenders register promised in 2010 has yet to be seen implemented;
- What is the status of the implementation of the recommendations by the National Taskforce on the sexual abuse of the Penan women? The Penan community, especially Penan women are still struggling due to their alienation from mainstream development. The time has come for the government to adopt more drastic actions regarding this issue, especially when the
Honourable Minister hails from Sarawak herself.
- The Domestic Violence Act 1994 should be amended especially to streamline the application of and the enforcement for Interim Protection Orders (IPO).
- A standalone Sexual Harassment Act advocated by women’s group since 2001 has yet to be tabled.
- A ban on child marriage has yet to be executed and statutory rape is on a worrying increase, without any serious solution on the part of the government;
- Women labour force participation rate has been stagnated in the last 20 years at 46-47% and we have yet to see a convincing strategy to achieve the targeted 55% by 2015, a mere one and a half year from now.
- There is still no implementation of gender responsive budgeting (GRB) at all levels of the federal government despite the completion of the GRB pilot project in 2003.
- 51% of the voters voted for Pakatan Rakyat, thus implying that they agree with our policy proposals and manifesto including the RM600 a year social security contribution for women. Therefore, I urge to the government to implement this policy, since this is the wish of the majority and the Prime Minister himself has appealed for national reconciliation.