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35% drop in job vacancies

PETALING JAYA: Jobseekers, especially fresh graduates, are feeling the heat from the softening job market.

The extended retirement age, higher operational costs coupled with lower revenue and an uncertain world economy are reasons behind the drop, according to Malaysian Employers Federation’s (MEF) executive director Shamsuddin Bardan.

He said the number of job vacancies registered by employers in June 2013 dropped by 35.7% to 107,796 compared with 167,968 vacancies at the same time last year, citing statistics from Jobs Malaysia, an online job matching service under the Human Resource Ministry.

Shamsuddin said jobseekers were competing for fewer openings as about 915,000 private sector employees had been retained in the workforce for the next five years with the extension of the retirement age from 55 to 60 after the Minimum Retirement Age Act 2012 came into force on July 1.

“Many employers also prefer to adopt a ‘wait and see’ attitude because of the uncertain world economy. They are also bracing themselves for the full impact of the minimum wage policy in January,” he said.

Shamsuddin said companies, which faced higher operating costs and earning lower revenues, had stopped hiring as one of their cost-cutting measures.

“Some employers are already offering the voluntary separation scheme (VSS) and other packages for employees to leave, so the likelihood of them taking in fresh graduates is very slim,” he said, adding that the current unemployment rate was only about 3%.

Some 180,000 fresh graduates enter the labour market yearly, after most public university convocations are held in September and October.

Manpower Malaysia country manager Sam Haggag said multi-national companies (MNCs) were restructuring and rationalising their permanent headcounts in anticipation of what was expected to come.

“Companies are managing costs. Hiring is on hold for most jobs except in senior technical positions and niche areas like biosciences and R&D. Some companies are letting their employees go and those that are hiring, are doing so on contract basis,” he said.

Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM) president Tan Sri Yong Poh Kon said electrical and electronics (E&E) companies might have undertaken cost cutting measures to sustain operations.

“To cope with slower demand from major external markets, companies have stopped hiring new staff or put filling up vacancies on hold. The softening of the job market could be due to the RM4.99bil drop in export demand from January to June this year.

“Also, the higher retirement age raised in July means a reduction in new intake,” he added.

On the lower ranking positions, he said many companies could be stabilising their workforce by requiring “more multi-skilling and multi-tasking” workers because of the challenging business environment. The FMM represents 2,678 members.

MyStarJob Network Sdn Bhd head Serm Teck Choon said there was a “definite drop” in vacancies and that the job market had not picked up since January.

“Pre-GE13, the job market was slow because companies adopted a wait-and-see attitude but post election, vacancies are still on the decline.

“The feedback from my online job portal, print media and headhunter networks is that there are fewer jobs out there,” he said.

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