Many Malaysians laid off in the pandemic are struggling to find new work and do not see their situation improving until economic sectors are allowed to fully reopen.

They say finding a suitable job is hard even as the country’s unemployment rate fell to 4.5 per cent in May from 5.3 per cent in the same month a year earlier.

James Chong, a former cinema chain senior manager, said that although there are job openings, most of them are entry level or internships.

After taking a mutual separation scheme from his company in February, the 44-year-old has been trying to leverage his 16 years of work experience when applying for a job but has yet to receive a call back.

“I don’t know if companies are just taking in applicants’ data, and only plan to recruit them after the economic situation gets better… I’m not sure but this is what it feels like after applying for so many jobs but not getting a single response,” he said.

The 44-year-old has already dipped into his retirement funds through the Social Security Organisation’s (Socso) Employment Insurance System (EIS) for the past four months and he plans to apply for the loan moratorium offered by the government’s latest RM150 billion Pemulih financial aid package.

“Yes, these government initiatives can be seen as a blessing to help us in the short term, but in the long term it works as a double-edged sword as we either lose our savings or have to repay our loans longer,” he said.

Sharon Vemaladevi, a 38-year-old single mother who used to clean homes for a living, finds it a challenge to feed her family of five children since the second lockdown earlier this year.

“If I can’t travel to my clients’ homes that are in different districts, then I can’t work. I have to make do with what I have,” she said.

Apart from receiving assistance from helpful Malaysians, Sharon has obtained government cash handouts over the past year via several programmes such as Bantuan Prihatin Rakyat (BPR) and Bantuan Prihatin Negara (BPN).

Coming from the lower income B40 group, Sharon continues to benefit from Pemulih support this year, receiving some RM1,000 from BPR and BPN payments between January and June.

While Sharon could have also received Bantuan Kanak-Kanak Keluarga Miskin — assistance for children from poor families — to the tune of RM1,800 over the past six months, her registration with the Social Welfare Department which hands out the aid, is not yet finalised.

From July to December, she is eligible for further assistance of over RM7,000 from BPR, Special Covid-19 Assistance (BKC), Bantuan Prihatin Nasional, Bantuan Kehilangan Pendapatan (BKP) or loss of income assistance, food basket, job search allowance, assistance for her children, and electricity discount.

Meanwhile, Alan Jackson, a 29-year-old former bar manager and bartender, has been applying for whatever jobs he can find ever since he lost his job in March last year.

“Right before MCO 2.0 I got a call from an international school saying I got the job to run their food and beverage section.

“They said they’d call me back the following week with more information, but then MCO 2.0 was announced and they never called me back,” said Jackson, who is now doing odd jobs for relatives to earn what he can.

Singles like Jackson have received at least two handouts amounting to RM500 from the government and under Pemulih, he is eligible for another payment of RM100 under BKC.

“The BPR has helped a little, and I’m also using the Socso EIS. But I’d rather the government use all this money they’re giving out to find a way to reopen the economy,” he said.

Pemulih, announced on June 28, is the eighth economic stimulus by the government to drive the transition into the final three stages of the four-phase National Recovery Plan.


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