TAWAU 27/09/2012: If what the Sabah government says is true, the state is close to being a paradise for jobseekers.
Unfortunately it’s about as true as saying the state is rapidly climbing the ladder to a high level of prosperity with near perfect healthcare, a comprehensive sealed road network, exhaustive piped water supply, uninterrupted power and high standards of education.
Unemployment in Sabah has inched up since 2009 and is the highest in the country, according to records tracking labour trends in various states.
It’s exactly the opposite of what the state Barisan Nasional government is trying to portray as the increase has happened on its watch.
This week a state minister tried to hide the fact by comparing the rates of unemployment in foreign countries with that in Sabah.
Sabah DAP pounced on the omission and contrast by State Youth and Sports Minister Peter Pang at a forum to accuse the government of twisting facts and downplaying the high rate of poverty in the state.
Sabah DAP publicity secretary Chan Foong Hin said that in fact, Sabah recorded the highest rate of unemployment in Malaysia based on the government’s own statistics.
Dismissing the statement by Pang this week that Sabah’s unemployment rate of 5.2% was relatively low despite a growing population, he said this was a distortion of facts.
“Sabah’s jobless population was recorded around 76,900 in 2010. The figure increased to 85,200 in 2011, almost an increase of 10,000 citizens,” he said and urged the government to take action to address the problem rather than hide the truth.
According to the Department of Statistics, Sabah recorded an unemployment of about 5.6% in 2010 when the national average was 3.4%.
Hiding the truth
A breakdown of the figures showed Penang as having the least unemployed with the figure recorded at 2.2%.
Selangor, one of the most industrialised states in the country, recorded a jobless rate of 3% or 0.4% below the national average.
Chan said Pang should not be comparing Sabah to other countries to hide the truth. The fact remains that “we can’t even compare among other states in Malaysia”, he said.
“Other developed countries like the UK, France and Spain recorded higher unemployment rates than Malaysia, but we hardly compare with these countries in terms of basic infrastructure, social welfare system, income per capital and so on.
“Furthermore, Sabah is still the poorest state with 19.7% of the population marked as poverty class.
“If the BN cannot solve the problem of poverty and joblessness in Sabah, locals will continue to suffer,” he said.
Sabah, he said, will continue to remain a potentially rich state as the government does not know how to manage its human resource capital in suitable areas to leverage the state economy.
Pang told a one-day forum organised by the Sabah Economic Development and Investment Authority (Sedia) that while the figure of joblessness was higher than the national average, it was lower than that in Australia, France, Spain, Greece, the US and UK.
He said the number of the jobless in the state was small at 85,200 out of a total statewide workforce of 1.64 million.
Many not bothered to register
The number is based on those out of work who had not bothered to register.
There is also the question of whether the state had imported unemployment as the state has a massive number of immigrants, both legal and illegal.
Economic growth in the state is crippled because of the lack of crucial infrastructure such as sealed roads, power supply and even water.
The vast majority of foreign workers in the state are employed in the labour-intensive agriculture and construction industries, which most locals shy away from.
The state government has, meanwhile, declared that Sabah had emerged as one of the top investment destinations in the country and the potential for more jobs coming into the market would grow for skilled workers.
The problem is there aren’t many quality higher learning or skills-training institutions in the state that those who lack qualifications can afford to attend.