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Better Employment Opportunities & Advancement

Being known as the land below the wind, Sabah is definitely a world of endless opportunities. Surrounded by the sea, and blessed with rich resources on land, Sabah is the land of untapped potential, where local communities thrive in diversity. With every passing year, more and more people join the state’s labour force. In 2019, Sabah recorded 2,025,700 new labourers1. Young local graduates prefer to stay in Sabah for work. A study found that 96% of respondents are willing to remain in the state post-graduation and only 3% wanted to seek work opportunities in Peninsular Malaysia2.

Key Issues Affecting The Employment Opportunities & Advancement In Sabah

Highest Unemployment Rate In Malaysia

Despite the state being the sixth-largest contributor to Malaysia’s GDP in 2019, Sabah has a labour force participation rate of only 70%². Its unemployment rate is the highest in the country at 5.8%². Youth unemployment in Sabah was at 14%. Sabah also has the highest poverty rate (19.5%) in the nation and the unemployment crisis continues to put families into financial insecurity.

  1. However, Sabah’s mobile – broadband penetration rate is higher, at 78.5%3. This brings the state’s total broadband penetration to 81.2%. In comparison to the national average of 127.1%, it is obvious that Sabah has room for improvement3
  2. As a result of difficulties in obtaining the internet, Sabahans have gone above and beyond to find a stable connection. Be it climbing up the tallest tree, spending days under the hot sun, hiking through the jungle, Sabahans have been trying their best to cope with the new norms, despite getting the short end of the stick. 

Low Salaries And High Cost Of Living

The majority of Sabahans hold formal job employments (60.3%), while others are self-employed (31.4%) and the remaining live on current transfers such as donations, aids and grants, official assistance, and pensions (8.3%)⁴.

  1. Connectivity is half the problem. Students in rural Sabah also lacked the digital devices required to have a proper online education. In Veveonah’s case, she only had a mobile phone – for classes, assignments and exams. Many more stories similar to Veveonah’s surfaced and it was found that the majority of those in Sabah did not have access to necessary digital devices such as laptops or smartphones. Others needed to share a device amongst multiple people. 
  2. Twenty-two young students and their teacher had to travel for two and a half hours to reach a site suitable for e-learning5. Nurlieda Khaleeda had to set up a tent on top of a 20-metre hill so she can attend online classes and sit for her exams6. Standard four student, Muhammad Amru Umair, from Sandakan Sabah, has to travel to an oil palm estate for internet coverage just to participate in online classes7, and there are many more just like them. 
  3. Whilst this does commitment of the students wanting to continue their education at all costs, these struggles can lead to severe safety risks. In Ranau, Sabah, seven villagers fell off a bridge in their attempt to get internet access8. These students were met with injured spines and a fractured femur. It was lucky that the incident didn’t result in death. 

Child Labor In Sabah

A child that sets aside their education to work is limiting their potential in the long run. They will most likely continue the cycle of unskilled labour, low pay, and poverty. Yet it is a common occurrence for children from low-income families in Sabah to start working at a young age⁷. In 2018 alone, the state had the highest labour force participation rate among 15 – 19 years olds with 143,800 youth employed⁷.

  1. Leaving rural areas disconnected would lead to further economic disparity. Digital transformation is meant to ensure equitable outcomes for all. By improving connectivity, access to digital devices and ongoing digital education, Sabah’s economy can grow – whether in the rural or urban areas.
  2. A close working relationships between the government, private sector and community are important to ensure the success of the implementation of Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) and the digital economy in Sabah9.

Stateless Children Not Granted Education

The state is known for its large stateless (undocumented) population. Some are former Filipinos, Bajau Laut, Indonesian plantation workers, as well as irregular migrants from Indonesia and the Philippines who have visited the state and settled here. Despite multiple generations, children from stateless families are not granted the same education opportunities as Malaysians².

  1. Non-citizen demographics were the leading population to be out of school on all levels2. By law, even if stateless children are born in Malaysia and given a birth certificate, it’s not enough to access public education2. As private education is too costly, and public education is off-limits, stateless children can only learn via Alternative Learning Centers (ALCs) run by NGOs or faith groups, even then, few attend. 
  2. Whilst ALCs provide primary & pre-primary education and run by trained and certified educators, only one in four ALCs are free2. Other ALCs impose a tuition fee, which is most necessary to keep the organization going2. Unfortunately, ALCs do not always provide certification or proof of education, recognised by the local government. Meaning, although children are allowed to learn, they are not guaranteed employment


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Leave No One Behind​

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Significant data points to clue you in on the

current situation

Universal Healthcare For All In Sabah

Equal Education Opportunity For All In Sabah

Better Employment Opportunities & Advancement In Sabah

Challenges In Restoring The Identity Of The Stateless In Sabah

Closing The Digital Divide In Sabah

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