I RECENTLY read a piece by Finance Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Abdul Aziz about the government’s proactive measures to create and keep jobs during this Covid-19 pandemic. As he correctly stated, jobs are the lifeline of any economy, allowing families to put food on the table, and earn a living.
For some, his words may sound hollow and unrelatable, especially if they have a job and a stable income. But his words struck a chord with me because I am one of the beneficiaries of the government’s job-creation initiatives.
I am 29 years old and have been working for a small advertising firm for the past four years, earning about RM3,000 per month. My company, like many others in the country, was badly hit when the Covid-19 pandemic struck, made worse by the movement control order. Business was bad and my boss was at his wit’s end as revenue plunged to near zero while operating expenses such as salaries and rent remained.
At one point, he openly told the staff that he was considering laying us off and closing the company. My wife had just given birth to our first child, and I was terrified. Where would I get the money to raise a family?
However, when the boss heard about the Wage Subsidy Programme, he decided to apply, despite not knowing whether the company would qualify. To his surprise, it was approved quickly, and he chose not to retrench us.
Although we had to accept a pay cut, being employed kept us afloat. I could cover the cost for basic household expenses, including the baby’s. Despite the difficulties, the company managed to survive.
Though we are not quite out of the woods, we are thankful to be employed. With the economy recovering, I can now see the light at the end of the tunnel. So, when I read about the finance minister’s views on job creation and retention, I can truly relate to them. It is a lifeline for which I am thankful.
Another recipient of the government’s jobs initiative was my cousin, who recently graduated and was placed with a government-linked company under the Short-term Employment Programme (MyStep). The experience he gained will place him in good standing as his stint ends in January 2022, given the strong recovery of our country since the reopening of many more economic and social sectors.
I am particularly pleased to see that the government has set even higher targets for job creation in Budget 2022. Next year, it aims to create 600,000 jobs, which is 100,000 more than the target this year.
And all these goes beyond the numbers. Each job created or retained has a human story behind it. For those like myself, knowing that I can continue to provide for my loved ones, including my elderly parents, allows me to hold my head high.
Zafrul is right on one thing: Jobs give a sense of pride and purpose to the lives of millions of Malaysians who contribute to the nation’s prosperity. Many people would rather work than be given handouts. I know, because I am one of them.
Lee Teck Soon
Taman Rasah Jaya