In response to boss Min Chia’s article on youth employment in Malaysia

After reading Ahmad Yazid Othman’s (CEO of Malay Economic Action Council (MTEM)) take on a fair minimum wage on The Star yesterday, I came across Min Chia’s write-up about youth unemployment after she watched this video by R.AGE. Min Chia is the co-founder of E-lluminate, a social enterprise with the mission to empower refugees in education by placing quality teachers, equipping vocational skills, and instilling entrepreneurship in refugee learning centres.

But first of all, let’s be very honest.

I bet youth and even working adults do not wish to ask for financial assistance because they can’t feed themselves. Would you like to buy food using the money you asked from your parents? Do you think it’s cool being scrutinised at, by your friends and relatives, when they questioned “you ain’t got no work”? Personally I believe this is not something one likes to get themselves into, if and only if, you’re born with a silver spoon that sterilised you from judgement and feeling self-insufficient.

Just as all successful leaders start with why, this social phenomenon exists, and snowballs for a reason(s). I believe that many have read the statistics and wondered at how serious it is, while our country is slowly but finally viewed as more developed, than 10 years ago. But here is the thing:

There was a student who was about to start his internship, came up to me after a workshop, and asked for advice on “which company” he should work at. Now we all need to grasp this hard-cold fact, no one can tell you “who you can be, where you should be”, not even your parents. Perhaps I won’t be able to empathise with parents completely, but I do realise that nobody asked me if I was happy, with what I did. “Do things that make you happy.” It is a cliché but the best litmus test for what you are doing at the moment.

I have met youth in their late twenties, who stay unemployed but continue to make art and write. In our conversations, one of them told me that it was hard to find a full-time job that allows him time to create stuff without distractions. I adore them, wholeheartedly because it’s not an easy path to walk. Those are flowery, but with thorns. You might argue that some of them are quite well-off, but again at least they persevere and be true to themselves.

Coming back to the youth who are unemployed, are you 100% sure that they don’t have the right skills? The funny thing was I did not have any matching work skills as well when I began working as an engineer. None of the skills I eventually used for 5 years in engineering, came from my tertiary education experience. So what went wrong there? If not skills, then what?

a) Grades (I got a C in C Programming)

b) Employers’ perception on quality of graduates in certain universities (10% of my faculty mates worked in the same zone in Penang)

c) Soft skills (I’m not sure?)

d) None of the above

Selling nasi lemak is less glamorous, I would think the same ten years ago. Being a hawker is always said to be tough, money hard-earned. Last month I did my ground work on motivations of parents to send their children to colleges. Most of the hawkers told me that,

So, sometimes when we blame youth for being picky, is it not true that we should blame us, the older but not wiser self, for telling them that “you should work elsewhere?” We could say it too easily that traditional, hands-on skills are not passed on to the next generation, but have we all collectively been responsible to cultivate the right mindset?

I’m concerned that youth was not represented in the video, perhaps they were interviewed earlier but were not included in the final product. I strongly believe that if we are to solve the unemployment challenge, we need to start building narratives, that are told by youth, and hopefully, empowering them to solve the complex problem, one step at a time.

Just like mat rempit, vandalism, cafe hopping (oops!), there are stories untold, and sometimes they are just a trick of perspective.

I am a sport scholar who writes about personal stories and intersectional identity.