Today is May 1st, the traditional Labour Day celebration both nationwide and also internationally recognised. For this year’s commemoration, I believe it is important for us to have a proper discussion on who truly keeps this country running.
And of course, this piece would not happen if it hadn’t been for those in our very quiet, very underappreciated statisticians in the civil service – particularly the National Statistics Department headed by Datuk Dr Haji Abdul Rahman Hassan and his team.
Let’s start firstly with the question of who are those working in Malaysia.
According to the Labour Investigation Report for 2015 published on April 29 by the Statistics Department, we have 14.518 million working Malaysians. This makes 67.9 percent of able bodied Malaysians participating in the workforce.
This figure represents 80.6 percent of able men in this country, and 54.1 percent of women in Malaysia.
Of this total of 14.52 million persons, 10.6 million are based in urban areas and 3.3 million are in rural Malaysia.
The largest age group in our workforce as of 2015 are those aged 25 to 29 years, and mostly only having attained secondary level education with a total of 7.587 million members of the Malaysian local workforce.
To be more specific, 5.157 million of our workforce are SPM graduates or the equivalent, 2 million only passed their PMR/PT3 exams, and there are even 2 million who have only achieved a UPSR certificate, participating in our workforce.
Of those who have obtained a degree, women outnumber men by more than 50,000.
At the same time the report does not some disturbing facts if you care to delve deep enough.
For instance, while women make up 821,500 members of the professional workforce compared to 640,600 men, there are only 161,900 women in management compared to 556,700 men in the same level.
I had earlier written that I would like to see more women in the workforce crashing the glass ceiling – well, this is why. There is a gender imbalance when it comes to the management level in Malaysian companies compared to the Malaysian workforce which clearly shows that for some reason or another women are not getting their fair treatment in our corporate sector.
At the same time, the above shows that our workforce is primarily driven by those achieving only secondary education – a whopping 53.9 percent.
There is a need for allowing these members in the workforce the ability and opportunity to go further in education, particularly in the wake of wanting to become a first class economy.
And unfortunately for most of these SPM graduates, they do not qualify to join “UMNO University” to be trained to become a Mentri Besar.
At the same time, while I applaud the work of Abdul Rahman and his team, there seems to be a “black hole” when it comes to the statistics for our labour force. Particularly, where is the salaries and wages report for 2015?
There is a need to look at the labour force with the need for not only fair, but “liveable” wages.
Currently, the Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM) is setting the figure at RM1,500.
It is even misleading because the figure of RM1,500 includes allowances instead of just the take home amount.
As such, this figure does not tally with the needs and requirements of the Malaysian workforce in order to either live a comfortable life or even think of starting a families without going into debt.
In a briefing to the Dewan Negara, Deputy Finance Minister Chua Tee Yong said that our household debt now stands at 89.1 percent of our GDP.
“Of the total debt, 56.2 per cent were for loans to buy houses and real estate for residential and non-residential purposes, while vehicle purchase accounted for 15.5 per cent,”
This being said, it is clear that our workforce cannot afford a home nor even a car without having to go into debt – which is reaching dangerous levels.
In fact, national civil service union Cuepacs has said that 60 percent of the civil service do not even own a home, with 75 percent of this figure aged 40 and below.
“The government must also play a role in controlling house prices and building more affordable homes.
“Without the intervention of the government in fixing the price of houses, civil servants will remain unable to have a house of their own,”
Thus, the government must reflect just what is it doing for those who make sure the country runs – which includes the urban men and women in the workforce, those aged 25 to 29 years of age, and also the majority of the workforce who have an education level up to secondary levels.
This is the majority. These are the people who makes sure the country keeps working, the one’s who make sure those GDP figures look so awesome whenever the government does a briefing and yet – are they getting their fair share?
This can only be addressed if the statistical “black hole” is addressed.
The workforce has a right to know where it stands not just in terms of wages from a national standpoint, but an international standpoint as well.
Comparisons must be made which shows what is expected of the labour force, and what the labour force should expect in return, in this federal government’s goal of achieving a so-called high income nation.
At the same time, we must work harder to ensure that the labour force knows it’s rights and have proper expectations and protection from employers who insist on reaping pure profits without giving a fair share to employees.
The labour force runs the nation, and without a doubt here in Malaysia, it is time for labour to get it’s fair share.