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Pandemic – Rethinking the Labour Forces


By Ahmad Shahrul Hj Mohamed

What we have seen thus far on the job market…

From the perspective of job loss, I believe we were lucky that the Malaysian economy is pretty resilient and was also helped by the world economy’s interdependency where the scale of the job loss was not too high although it took place at a pretty unprecedented pace. During the MCO 1 we saw many part-timers being laid off and their contracts terminated or not continued, those in the hospitality and air travel industry being put on unpaid leave and small and medium-size retail businesses close down.

This MCO 1 also prompted the Government to think of perhaps unprecedented ways of helping the people to overcome job losses and businesses closing down.

As a result of the lockdown and restricted movements order put in place, many people had to resort to working from home (WFH). Many businesses recorded some decline in productivity as a result but this was the only way and from now on a combination of WFH and office place can be expected. Meetings will continue to be held both virtually and physically.

We also saw that the impact of the pandemic and lockdown being unequal to people in various conditions and background including genders.

The number of women dropping out from employment has risen when they are expected to stay at home and take care of the family during the lockdown and pandemic compared to their male counterparts. The pandemic also highlighted the need for a push towards automation and this may not be favourable to the less educated labour force whose menial tasks can be replicated and performed by robots and automation.

MCO 1 also saw the demand for business travel and its related services decline tremendously. This includes amongst others business class travels, business luncheons and seminars and business class hotels. The closure of international borders and the use of remote and virtual meetings may see an extremely slow return to pre-2019 for this sector. 

Way forward…

The pandemic has demonstrated that the job market and labour forces need to be flexible and to overcome adversities, all concerned are required to work together.

The government should introduce and tailor its economic policies to encourage the economy to grow. This can be done by way of policies that both encourage consumptions and investments.

Unequal impact on the economic sectors is also extremely visible where the demands for technology and medical-related jobs remain consistent and strong whilst those in hospitality industries continue to look rather gloomy.

Training should be conducted to retrenched labour forces to enable them to re-enter the market forces in areas where there are shortages especially in the technology and medical fields.

Studies are to be conducted to ensure future job needs are addressed and resources are allocated to the most important and productive sectors.