WHILE witnessing the loss of lives and livelihoods during this Covid-19 pandemic, the ongoing threat of climate change indicates the importance of creating more job opportunities for youths to venture into the renewable sector rather than continuously working on fossil fuels.
This is especially in light of current difficulties among aspiring university graduates and fresh graduates in Malaysia who remain vulnerable in securing a decent job arising from the pandemic.
Even though the National Employment Council (NEC) plans to create 500,000 jobs for Malaysians by the end of this year, it does not provide specification with regard to the number of new jobs in the renewable sector.
NEC also does not indicate the number of jobs available for Malaysian youths.
The latest February figure shows a total of 777,500 individuals remained unemployed despite the decrease of 0.1% in the unemployment rate in Malaysia to 4.8% in February compared with 4.9% in January.
On the other hand, the unemployment rate for youths aged 15 to 24 had increased to 13.9% in February, or an increase of 52,400 individuals to 347,600 compared with 295,300 in January.
The continuous rise in Covid-19 cases during the past three weeks raises concern that rising unemployment among youths will provide a bleak future for aspiring university graduates and fresh graduates.
Since April 15, Malaysia has been reporting over 2,000 new Covid-19 cases daily for 18 consecutive days.
As more financial allocation is required to train new hires with no working experience, employers in general are not motivated to hire fresh graduates under the current climate.
Although the current job market is challenging, the Pew Research Centre’s International Science Survey 2019-2020 revealed that around seven in 10 Malaysians (73%) place more priority on environmental protection, even if it comes at the expense of economic growth and the creation of more job opportunities.
The international survey also discovered that out of 1,650 respondents, only 27% chose job creation.
Moreover, the National Youth Climate Change (NYCC) Survey Malaysia revealed that 92% of young Malaysians think that climate change is a crisis.
Although there is some confusion on basic scientific climate concepts, most of the NYCC survey respondents, in general, have a good understanding of climate change.
As youths account for almost half of Malaysia’s population, now is the time for the current administration to create more job opportunities, providing more young Malaysians with the chance to work in the renewable sector besides advocating the green recovery agenda.
Not only will this kind of initiative allow Malaysia to reduce the usage of fossil fuels, but a shift to renewable energy can also encourage more youths to do good for social betterment.
Furthermore, Malaysia could move towards an economy based on low-carbon power sources with a minimal output of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions into the atmosphere, specifically carbon dioxide.
When Malaysia successfully transforms into a low-carbon economy, every dollar invested in climate adaptation can result in up to US$10 of economic benefit, according to Alok Sharma, president for COP26, the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference that will be organised in November this year.
In addition, a 2017 study in the journal Economic Modelling showed that investment in renewables could generate, on average, three times as much employment opportunities comparable with investment in fossil fuels.
An analysis by the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley, added that switching over the grid to renewable sources could stimulate the creation of 500,000 jobs every year through 2035.
Therefore, with a wide array of natural resources such as fertile land for agriculture, minerals and extensive forests, Malaysia could build more low-carbon initiatives, generating more jobs in the country.
Following are some of the low-carbon initiatives that can be implemented in Malaysia:
1. Invest in reducing the cost of existing low-carbon energy-efficient technologies such as solar, wind and bio-energy;
2. Introduce new performance-based targets and incentive systems, such as tax exemption for low-carbon vehicles for the transport sector;
3. Introduce retail sales of biofuels such as ethanol in urban and rural markets;
4. Introduce new market-based incentives for restoring degraded forests and increase the penalty for illegal logging;
5. Reduce the tariff rate for low-carbon environmental goods and services and strengthen intellectual property regimes;
6. Introduce reforestation to regulate water flows, act as barriers against storm surges and protect against erosion and mudslides;
7. Introduce budgetary reforms with a gradual increase in energy taxes or carbon pricing; and
8. Introduce performance-based tax incentive systems for achieving sectoral emission targets.
For Malaysian youths to reap the benefits of climate change adaptation through employment, EMIR Research has several policy recommendations for the government to consider:
1. The ministries of industrial development, rural development, tourism, cultural and environment, and agriculture and fisheries could organise a joint meeting and utilise natural resources advantage of the country to create more green jobs for the benefits of its youths. These ministries can also collaborate with industry players so that the skillsets among young Malaysians would match the current industry needs;
2. The Works Ministry could develop climate-resilient infrastructure to generate youth employment opportunities besides protecting individuals and communities against natural hazards. For instance, irrigation infrastructure could limit the changing rain patterns on crops. Investment in the infrastructure for the conservation, treatment and supply of water is required, increasing both the number and quality of jobs in the country;
3. The Youth and Sports Ministry and Environment and Water Ministry could organise youth dialogues with youth associations in Malaysia, enabling young voices to be heard at all levels of government, on company boards and in multilateral organisations. In turn, it would foster an intergenerational transfer of experience, knowledge and skills, serve as a bridge-builder against societal functions and decrease youth frustration;
4. The same ministries could partner with the private sector to develop virtual apprenticeship, internship and upskilling programmes together where its youth would have the opportunity to acquire necessary technical skills besides securing a job in the renewable sector;
5. The same ministries could make climate action more accessible and inclusive by moving the conversation beyond urban centres, encouraging youths from rural and lower-income families to participate; and
6. The federal government perhaps could allocate funding to conduct research and development in the area of climate change adaptation with the state governments and local authorities, promoting green work among Malaysian youths.
When the current administration utilises young people’s potential as powerful change agents, Malaysia could reimagine a greener and more sustainable future through green job creation.
Amanda Yeo is research analyst at EMIR Research, an independent think tank focused on strategic policy recommendations based on rigorous research. Comments: firstname.lastname@example.org