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Decent Work Opportunity: An Important Key to Social Mobility


Work opportunities that deliver a fair income, offer security in the workplace, and provide social protection for families are keys to enhancing social mobility for the nation. 

According to the United Nations report, over 470 million jobs are needed globally for new entrants into the labour market between 2016 and 2030, to keep up with the global working-age population[1]. It is not a demand that can be easily met.

Malaysia, like the rest of the world, faces difficulty in employing its youth. The Covid-19 recession has made things tougher for all workers, especially for young employees and recent graduates[2].

Before 2020, Malaysia’s young unemployment rate was lower than the global average of 13%. The latest statistics from DOSM shows that the youth unemployment rate for those aged 15 to 30 years went up from 8.7% in December 2020 to 9.2% in January 2021[3]. This increase significantly affects the youth’s social mobility moving forward.

Source: Unsplash

The multi-faceted purpose of employment

Work opportunities or employment provides the working population with income enabling them to afford basic goods and services. For low and middle-income families, being employed is crucial.  They often lack access to sufficient savings or other financial sources to sustain their livelihood.

Without enough employment opportunities provided, poverty and income inequality are going to become more widespread.

Beyond providing money for day-to-day survival, being employed also offers other unique benefits which facilitate social mobility. This consists of job training, gaining transferable skills, networking opportunities, and work experience. Better job opportunities are often reserved for those with good working experience and skills.

Source: Unsplash

Moving forward

To curb the high unemployment rate and increase social mobility, governments must start investing in high-quality training and quality education that equips people with the skills that match the labour market demand.

In upholding the spirit of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), building people-centred economies and promoting youth empowerment, in particular, decent work for all should be a part of the government’s plan

On the whole, work plays an important role in increasing one’s social mobility and securing a better future. Malaysian youths have expressed their dissatisfaction and demanded the government to pay attention to the employment and economic security of the young.

Although the government has created policies to help unemployed individuals, much is still needed to ascertain the efficacy of these policies. We should not look only at giving cash handouts and temporary measures. Instead, sustainable solutions that provide Malaysians with decent work opportunities must be the main target so that their social mobility is not compromised.

This opinion piece is contributed by Simraatraj Kaur, research analyst of Bait Al Amanah and edited by Wiki Impact as part of a series to explore social mobility, equality and shared opportunity in Malaysia. This series is written against the backdrop of the Global Social Mobility Index which benchmarks 82 global economies and looks into five key dimensions including Health, Education (access, quality and equity, lifelong learning), Technology, Work (opportunities, wages, conditions) and Protection and Institutions (social protection and inclusive institutions).

The higher a country ranks in terms of social mobility, the greater the chance for the next generation to experience a better life than their parents. According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Social Mobility Report 2020, Malaysia ranked #43 out of 82 countries.

Explore our sources:

  1. Nations, U. (n.d.). Decent Work and Economic Growth: Why It Matters? Sustainable Development Goals. (2021). Link
  2. The Covid-19 Recession: Rough times for Young Malaysians. (2021). FULCRUM. Link
  3. Department of Statistics Malaysia (DOSM). (2021). Key Statistics of Labour Force in Malaysia, January 2021. Link.

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