Underemployment hinders Malaysian SMEs’ ability to find skilled employees

A Future of Work Taskforce could help SMEs create a skilled workforce that supports their growth, said the Small and Medium Enterprises Association.
By: | May 4, 2023

Malaysia should form a Future of Work Taskforce to address a rising underemployment rate and help small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) find the right employees to fill positions in their severely affected workforce, said Datuk William Ng, Chairman of the Small and Medium Enterprises Association (Samenta).

He said, “Employers, including SMEs, are finding it difficult to hire qualified employees with the right skill sets and have to settle for whatever is the next best. This severely impacts productivity growth and forces employers to retrain at considerable costs.”

Ng cited research by local think-tank EMIR Research, which states that underemployment is now structural, and the World Economic Forum’s prediction that by 2025, more than half of all skilled employees must be reskilled. This is due to the rise of digital technology, which he said was disrupting the labour market and changing the way people work.

READ: Malaysia launches new career initiatives to boost employment

He suggested that a high-level task force, led by industry experts, is long overdue, and must include relevant government agencies, industry players, and SMEs. He believes this is essential to address the issue of job market disruption and to map out the availability of a trained workforce to support the growth of industries, provide high-value jobs, and help organisations, especially SMEs, upgrade their workforce and digital capabilities.

Samenta previously requested the government to take more steps to address urgent issues impacting SMEs in Malaysia’s revised Budget 2023. Ng said that while cost pressures and labour shortages remain the most urgent issues impacting the recovery of SMEs, longer-term challenges such as low productivity, digital placement, regional competition, and environment, social and governance (ESG) compliance should also be addressed as soon as possible, reported Malay Mail.