We need to learn from our Malaysian friends

By March 22, 2020Current

TL;DR- If they can do it, so can we.

The COVID-19 situation has worsened dramatically over the last few weeks. Many countries around the world is locking down, shutting their borders, shuttering their shops. Life in those countries are grinding to a halt. One of those countries is just north of us – Malaysia.

On 16 March, the newly minted Prime Minster of Malaysia hastily announced measures to restrict movements of Malaysians. That included banning Malaysians from leaving the country. The announcement came as a bombshell to many Singaporeans, and Singaporean companies.

Our two countries are so closely interconnected.

Much of Singapore’s supplies come from Malaysia.

Many Malaysians cross the borders into Singapore for work daily. Many of these workers work in small and medium enterprises (SMEs), which can’t afford to put in place business continuity plans (BCPs). The operations of those companies will face serious disruptions without the many Malaysian workers they employ. They won’t be able to meet deadlines, they won’t be able to complete orders, they won’t be able to make the deliveries.

That’s why many companies were scrambling to provide housing for their Malaysian workers before Malaysia closed their borders. Some companies were more successful than others.

And even if the companies were able to find housing, will the Malaysians want to spend two whole weeks completely away from their families, not sure when they can return and be reunited?

Many Malaysians made the tough decision of rushing across into Singapore before the borders closed.

Many of these Malaysians were sole-breadwinners. They had families that depended on them working in Singapore. For them, going on unpaid leave, or even facing the prospects of losing their jobs was simply not an option. For some Malaysians, they knew that their employers would face staff shortage if they didn’t turn up at work.

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For their jobs, they made the difficult decision of leaving their families. Through this episode, they have shown grit and resilience.

How about Singaporeans?

COVID-19 will leave a long lasting impact on the economy. Some economists are predicting that Singapore will go into a full-year recession for the first time since 2001. Some companies are already struggling. Many Singaporeans are already facing the prospects of being forced to go on unpaid leave (if they are lucky), or being retrenched. More will be affected.

It is not a pretty sight.

But not all is lost. There is help.

The government has announced a slew of initiatives to encourage employers to keep workers on their payroll. And for those Singaporeans who unfortunately lose their jobs, there is help to move on to other industries. The government has plans to increase capacity for the Professional Conversation Programme, career transition programmes by Continuing Education and Training (CET) centres, and Place-and-Train programmes for rank-and-file workers.

It won’t be easy. As some people who have moved from one industry to another have shown, the process can be quite… humbling (to put it mildly). And you will need some luck, some thick skin, and put in heck of a lot of effort.

But it can be done.

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Our Malaysian friends have shown us what it means to be resilient and have grit. They have shown us what it means to do whatever it takes to keep a job. We cannot lose to them.

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So. If you are worried about your job prospects, don’t just sit there and worry. Go and make use of the different government initiatives. Do something.

Do something before the situation gets worse. Ranting about losing jobs to foreign talents does not help you or your situation, not even by a tiny bit. You have to make sure your skills are relevant, and make sure you are able to compete with the foreign talents.

Search and Recruitment honcho David Leong: “Singaporeans are not losing jobs as a result of CECA”

Asking the Government to shut the borders and keep out the foreigners so that all the jobs can go to Singaporeans is plain crazy.

And lazy.

If the local workforce does not have skills that are relevant and worse, if the local workforce is expensive, what makes you think the foreign companies will even come here? And with digitalisation, many of the jobs can be outsourced to service providers outside of Singapore. So long as the work can be delivered over the internet, even local companies may outsource to somewhere else where they can either get better skilled workers or where they can get cheaper workers, or worse, both.

Do something. Now.


(Featured image via)


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Joey Wee

Author Joey Wee

I am nice, most of the time!

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