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Travel restrictions, food insecurity and unemployment among challenges faced by Malaysians

06 Nov 2020 / 17:00 H.

KUALA LUMPUR: The implementation of Movement Control Order (MCO) in Malaysia and the closure of international borders to contain the Covid-19 outbreak has affected people’s movements and activities, particularly in tourism-related sub-sectors.

According to the Economic Outlook 2021 report released by the Ministry of Finance, hotel booking cancellations from January to March 20, 2020, has breached over 193,000 rooms, which translates into RM76 million losses in revenue for the industry.

At the same time, the hotel occupancy rate dropped from 61.6 per cent in January to 25 per cent in March.

“With the gradual recovery of the economy, the accommodation industry started to pick-up with the occupancy reaching 42.1 per cent from Aug 30 to Sept 5,” according to the report.

In addition, the Malaysian aviation industry is projected to lose RM13 billion this year as air travel plummeted following international travel restrictions.

According to the report, Malaysia also faces the issue of food insecurity.

For example, in 2019, Malaysia’s rice production is sufficient to meet only 70 per cent of domestic demand. Other food items with lower Self-Sufficiency Ratio (SSR) include sweet potato (81.7 per cent) and coconut (68.2 per cent), cabbage (36.2 per cent), mango (32.1 per cent), chilli (30.8 per cent) and ginger (16.2 per cent).

“Factors contributing to the unattractive supply of staple foods include low wages in the agriculture sector, the prevalence of pests and diseases, lack of technology adoption and low interest among the younger generation in the agriculture sector,” the report said.

In addition, youth unemployment also continues to be an issue in Malaysia, which had recorded double-digit rates even during the overall full employment periods in the economy.

The report said the educational mismatch is also prevalent in the labour market, where individuals with tertiary education are employed in the semi-skilled and low-skilled occupations.

“In 2019, a total of 26.7 per cent of graduates was underemployed mainly due to insufficient jobs in skilled occupations. Malaysia is also heavily reliant on migrant workers, particularly low-skilled foreign workers.

“At the same time, while the gig economy is gaining prominence, it does not provide gig workers with appropriate social safety coverage,” the report said. -Bernama

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