Lately, there is a movement calling for young voters to boycott elections or deliberately spoil their votes during the upcoming 14th General Election called #UndiRosak. While I disagree with #UndiRosak, this paper would like to defend youths’ frustration towards politics, and to increase the awareness about the dreadful situation that they are facing in employment.
Growing up, the current generation of youths witnessed many achieving the Malaysian dream and the constant emphasis that tertiary education holds the key to a better life. They witnessed numerous success stories in which someone from a low-income family achieve middle/upper class through tertiary education and hard work. However, graduates today realize it is becoming increasingly difficult for them to secure jobs, and the salaries for fresh graduates has stagnated. Everything is different from their expectations as they graduate, they struggle for jobs, a good income, paying bills and buying a house. Yet, there is little attention paid in politics to mend their broken dreams.
Currently, the public and media attribute graduate unemployment to graduates asking for unrealistically high salaries, picky about jobs, and bad attitude. While it is statistically difficult to defend unemployed graduates against the allegation of bad attitude, Graduate Tracer Study provides statistical evidences showing majority of unemployed graduates do not ask for unrealistically high salaries and pick jobs. Worse, the monthly salary for graduates has been stagnant with little changes, and many diploma graduates are not permanent workers.
The summary findings of Graduate Tracer Study 2007-2015 in this paper also reveals the 3P characteristics of graduate unemployment – majority of unemployed graduates come from poor (low-income) families and poor states (low-income states) with poor social standing (presumably lower social class). It is a strong indicator of inequality within the society as not all graduates are equal at employment – graduates from rich families and high-income states with better social networking have advantage at employment.
It is of little wonder why youths in Malaysia are frustrated with politics considering the lack of action to reconcile their broken dreams and difficulty at employment.
Ooi Teik Khim is an economist affiliated with the think tank Political Studies for Change (KPRU).