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Commentary: Young and unemployed in Malaysia

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SELANGOR: Malaysia’s economy is recoveringtourists return and investments explode. Economic activities are normalizing, domestic demand is higher and the unemployment rate has returned to pre-pandemic levels. On the surface, things seem positive. But the encouraging data from Malaysia masks a looming crisis: youth unemployment.

Just before the Chinese New Year, the Malaysian Statistics Department released its employment report, showing that the unemployment rate remained stable at 3.3 percent in the last month of 2023, with an increase in the employment in all sectors.

However, the youth unemployment figures show a completely different reality. As of December last year, 307,200 young Malaysians aged 15 to 24 were unemployed, representing an unemployment rate of 10.6 percent. At the same time, the unemployment rate for the wider age bracket of 15 to 30 was 6.4 percent, comprising 432,100 young people.

Putting this into context, these young people make up about 76 percent of the 567,800 unemployed people in Malaysia. Five to six million more students are expected to graduate this year, which only makes the problem worse. At the same time, job creation slowed in 2023, making the situation even more difficult for young people seeking to enter the job market.

The social, economic and political consequences of youth unemployment cannot be underestimated. This is not just a cyclical problem: the problems and flaws are deeply rooted in the system itself, requiring structural reform to achieve lasting change.

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