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More Grads, Less Participation: What Official Data Reveals About Malaysia's Labour Force

The median monthly income of Malaysian graduates with a full-time equivalent principal occupation was RM4,371 last year compared to RM3,936 in 2018, according to the Department of Statistics Malaysia (DoSM).

Cover image via New Straits Times

On Thursday, 16 July, the Department of Statistics Malaysia (DoSM) released its annual report on graduates for the period of 2016 to 2019

The department defines graduates as individuals aged 15 years and above with the highest certificate obtained from universities, colleges, polytechnics, recognised bodies, or equivalent.

The duration of the study, DoSM says, should be at least two years.

In the report, graduates are classified into two categories of certification namely diploma and degree.

More graduates, less participation in the labour force

The department's report revealed that in 2019, while there was an increase of 6.9% in the number of graduates, their labour force participation rate fell to 83.5% from 83.6%, by 0.1% or about 50,000.

The data indicates that the number of graduates joining the workforce had already declined last year, way before Malaysia was hit with the COVID-19 pandemic and the Movement Control Order (MCO).

In total, there were 5.29 million graduates in 2019 compared to 4.94 million in 2018.

Additionally, graduates in the labour force went up 4.42 million in 2019 from 4.14 million in 2018, and out of total graduates in the labour force, 4.25 million were employed compared to 3.97 million in 2018.

However, last year also recorded an increase of 7.6% in graduates outside the labour force — which includes housewives, students, retired, disabled persons, and those not interested in looking for a job — in the country, where the number rose to 871,400 individuals compared to 808,500 in 2018.

In terms of sex, the labour force participation rate for women was lower at 79.8%, compared to male graduates rate at 87.7%. However, the unemployment rate for women graduates increased.

Graduates labour force participation rate and graduates unemployment rate by sex.

Image via The Department of Statistics Malaysia

An increase in both employed graduates and unemployed

In 2019, the number of employed graduates increased by 6.9%. Similarly, the department's report shows that the number of unemployed graduates last year also increased by 5.5%.

While there were 4.25 million employed graduates last year compared to 3.97 million in 2018, the number of unemployed graduates in 2019 was 170,3000 compared to 161,300 in 2018.

According to DoSM, graduates who were actively looking for a job made up 127,400.

Out of this number, 65,7000 of them were unemployed less than three months and 37,500 of them were unemployed between three months and less than six months, the report said.

On the other hand, 13,900 of them were unemployed between six months and less than a year whereas another 10,300 were unemployed for more than a year, the report stated.

What contributed to the number of increased graduates outside the labour force in 2019? The department's report said that housework and or family responsibilities were the most significant reasons.

Housework/family responsibilities accounted for 36.8% or 319,900 individuals out of the total 869,800 graduates who were outside the labour force last year, compared to 808,500 in 2018.

Other factors included retirement/old age with 260,700 individuals, schooling/training programme with 239,900, and 28,400 graduates who were not interested or had just completed studies.

Meanwhile, the median monthly income of graduates with a full-time equivalent principal occupation was RM4,371 last year compared to RM3,936 in 2018, according to the department's chief statistician Dr Mohd Uzir Mahidin, who cited its Salaries and Wages Survey 2019, reported New Straits Times.

Last year, there were 3.11 million employed graduates in the skilled category who earned RM5,175 while the semi-skilled category, which employed 1.09 million graduates, received RM2,300.

The department recently released its latest population estimates for 2020 based on the Population and Housing Census 2010:

Last week, Malaysia revised its Poverty Line Income:

Meanwhile, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, job losses in Malaysia has increased by 42% year-on-year in the first quarter of 2020: