Unemployment the government’s biggest failure

Speech in DAP Secretary-General,Mr.Lim Kit Siang, at the re-election of the new Perak State Standing Sub-Committee in Ipoh on Monday, 29th March 1971 at 5.30 p.m.

Unemployment-the government’s biggest failure

Despite the government’s much-waunted multi-pronged economic policies, the single most important economic and social problem continues to be unemployment, which condemns hundreds of thousands of Malaysians to a sentence of poverty, social humiliation and disgrace.

In 1969, when the Ipoh Municipal Council wanted to fill 21 vacancies for labourers, over 2,000 people jammed the Municipality Padang for the posts. In the same year, when a new hotel in Kuala Lumpur advertised for 110 vacancies for waiters, receptionists, cashiers, bellboys and supervisors, over 4,500 people, including 3,000 School Certificate holders, applied for the positions.

Under the section on the Public Services Commission, we learn that in 1967, the PSC received 64,000 applications for a slightly more number of posts. In 1969, for 4,700 posts, 150,000 people applied. And in 1970, 165,000 people applied for 5,000 posts.

Bearing in mind that these applications are for Division One, Two and Three posts, i.e. application who have received formal secondary education, we can imagine how grave the problem is among those who did not have the benefit of secondary education.

Unemployment is highest among youths, particularly in the age groups 15-19 and 20-24 with rates as high 20.5 per cent and 11.5 per cent respectively. Furthermore, it occurred mainly among youths who had little education or training. More than half of the unemployed had only a primary education with no technical skill or training of any kind.

It has been estimated that about two-thirds of those unemployed are seeking jobs for the first time.

It is clear that the First Malaysia Plan has been a big failure as far as its object is to “generate employment opportunities at a rate sufficient to provide productive work for new entrants to the labour force and lower the rate of unemployment” is concerned.

When the First Malaysia Plan, 166-1970, was implemented, it was estimated that the rate of unemployment, was 6% of the labour force. One of the Plan’s objectives was to reduce this rate of unemployment to 5.2% by the end of the Plan in 1970 by the creation of 380,000 new jobs in West Malaysia.

Has the Second Malaysia Plan succeeded in reducing the reate of unemployment from 6% in 1966 to 5.2% in 1970?

The Minister of Finance, in his 1971 Budget speech last December, grudgingly admitted that the present overall unemployment was estimated at 9%. We can regard this as a very conservative figure.

It is clear therefore that the Second Malaysia Plan has been a total failure as for as solving the problem of unemployment is concerned. This is why under the Alliance government, the poor have become poorer and the dispossesses even more dispossessed the total human suffering and hardships have increased in the past years rather than decreased.

A more dynamic economic policy is called for to promote a faster economic rate of growth in both the agriculture and industrial sector to grapple with this problem of unemployment, and distribute more fairly and evenly the wealth and income in the country.

It is no use talking about Malaysia being the third Asian country with the highest per capital income when the common man and woman in the kampongs and the urban slums could not find a square and decent meal, when poverty oppresses, degrades and humiliates them.

Economic growth and prosperity must be translated into personal terms for every Malaysian, particularly the poor in the kampongs and the urban slums. For a peasant who for the last decade had been eking out a living on $40 a month, or for a factory hand who could earn only $2 a day, grandiloquent statistics and figures of economic progress means nothing.