It is a precarious existence – life up there in the hallowed halls and ivory tower of Malaysian academia. Majlis Profesor Negara (MPN or National Professors’ Council) head Professor Datuk Dr Raduan Che Rose can attest to that. He has the bumps and bruises to show after failing to anticipate the furore caused by a seemingly flippant remark about the threat of future unemployment in this country.
Prof Raduan earned notoriety and attracted the wrath of just about everybody after coming out with a seemingly innocuous statement on the looming threat of unemployment for Malaysia last week.
The offending remark? Bukan Besar (Not Big) – in response to the Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) assertion that the Malaysian workforce faces the prospects of constriction resulting in the shedding of 50,000 jobs this year.
The bricks thrown back at him were large, swift and at times vicious – internet trolls had a field day with mocking memes lambasting him for being `heartless’.
He concedes that harassed workers and the lay reader have the right to regard the 50,000 number as big.
“I am neither cruel nor am I a dumb professor,” he told Awani Review in an impromptu interview, explaining volubly the national employment scenario and structure.
“It’s a big number but you have to look at the bigger picture. You have to factor in all those that I have mentioned earlier. It’s not fair just to highlight the 50,000 – this professor is (made to look) dumb, this professor doesn’t understand what’s happening and this professor is very cruel,” he defended himself.
He goes on to give reasons and work trends that leads to the shedding of jobs.
“You have to accept the fact that even now there’s also a trend, they (the workers) want to do freelancing. People want to do part-time to be independent workers – no longer the notion of youth to work in the company (for the long term) anymore. That’s also a trend. So, you have to look along that line just to focus on the 50,000 to be left off and it’s going to be a big problem. Of course people will get angry with me and say, ‘What is this professor saying?’
“They have to know the whole picture. As a country, I am very comfortable that we are still enjoying the economic growth and definitely the economic growth will bring about job opportunities for our society,” says Raduan.
He opines that 50,000 being laid off is normal because it is academically termed as “structural unemployment” and “technology unemployment” which could also be translated as “seasonal unemployment”.
“The 50,000 – I think people have to get it right, get to look at this from a wider perspective. Let me share what I have in mind. When you say 50,000 has been projected to be laid off by 2015. There’s nothing new about it. 2016, 2015 there are also quite a number being laid off by the system. But that doesn’t mean that once they have been laid off, they will stop there. In unemployment, there’s a term what we call it “a structural unemployment”, we call it the “technology unemployment”. We call it seasonal unemployment – that’s normal. That very much depends on the economy that we are in.
Prof Raduan then went on to expound the need for relevant collation of data in making conclusions.
“The fundamental thing about academics is for us to get the right data. How you disseminate the data is different. We academics like to share our findings, our observations through a very conventional way
As the unemployment rate in Malaysia is still below four percent, Raduan says that the number is still not alarming.
He pointed out that indicators made up of economic variables show that Malaysia has a growing economy with a projection of 5.5% expansion.
He explains that in economic terms,we are among the few countries in the world still enjoying full employment.
Prof Raduan goes on to explain how unemployment in Malaysia is anomalous since it is a haven for foreign workers.
“People have said, ‘Oh there’s so many people unemployed’ because of their choice. And at the same time, ironically, we still have about five million foreign workers. Well, people may argue, ‘Oh I don’t want to work in the sector that they are in’. That’s fine but the fact is still a fact as a country, we still have a handsome growth, very small unemployment, and highly dependent on foreign workers,” says Raduan.
He also says that the unemployment he referred to is temporary and that those unemployed would be able to be covered by their insurance companies.
Raduan further states that one must not only depend on the government to take steps to address unemployment but that private parties must also make similar efforts.