The Small and Medium Enterprises Association of Malaysia (SAMENTA) has urged the government to establish a taskforce to tackle the significant disruptions in the job market and plan for the Future of Work, as Malaysians celebrate Labour Day.

The job market has been severely disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic and new technologies. Despite Malaysia’s low unemployment rate of 3.5 percent, the issue of underemployment and job qualifications mismatch needs to be considered, SAMENTA chairman Datuk William Ng said in a statement.

Employers, including SMEs, are struggling to find qualified employees with the appropriate skillsets and are forced to settle for less. This has a negative impact on productivity growth and results in employers having to bear the cost of retraining.

Workers, including gig workers, are also facing the problem of underemployment. EMIR research has recently stated that underemployment is now ‘structural’, and the World Economic Forum predicts that more than half of all workers will need to be reskilled by 2025. Nobel Laureate Sir Christopher Pissarides has also emphasized the need for different skills due to the disruptive impact of digital technologies, Ng said.

Urgent action is required to address this lose-lose situation. Not only is it necessary to solve the job market disruptions, but also to create a trained workforce that can support the growth of industries, provide high-value jobs for Malaysians, and help SMEs to upgrade their workforce and digital capabilities.

According to Ng, the current piecemeal and reactive approach is not effective and creates a disconnect between policymakers and the industry in areas such as minimum wages, labour laws, social security coverage, and employee benefits.

A high-level, industry-led Future of Work Taskforce, involving relevant government agencies and the industry, including SMEs, is long overdue. It is essential to address the gap and prepare Malaysia and Malaysians for a changed workplace, he said.

SAMENTA wishes all Malaysians a Happy Labour Day. SAMENTA is Malaysia’s oldest association for small and medium enterprises and is committed to supporting the development of SMEs through policy consultation, market access, business amplification, and capacity building


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