The high rate of unemployment in Brunei Darussalam needs to be tackled.
To overcome this issue, the Manpower Planning and Employment Council (MPEC) should consider introducing Occupational Licensing (OL) for vocational jobs in Brunei’s labour market.
Aspiring workers should have completed state-specific educational, training, testing and other requirements to practice in a licensed profession.
The Institute of Brunei Technical Education (IBTE) and Politeknik Brunei can serve as avenues to get these licences. Professions that can be licensed include nurses, air-conditioner repairers, security guards, truck drivers, forklift operators, electricians, welders, plumbers, vehicle technicians, and many more.
Those without OL should not be allowed to operate in these professions.
OL helps protect vulnerable Bruneian labour from intense competition and exploitation, as well as to promote HSE standards.
OL can serve as our industrial policy needed to nurture and grow our local labour market.
When South Korea wanted to build up its labour market in the 60s, it implemented various labour policies. Within several decades, they transformed their workforce from a nation of farmers to one capable to meet the demands of a modern industrial power. When our labourers are protected, they will also be able to make a decent living.
According to my research, in Australia, full-time plumbers earn on average AUD1,894 per week which is more than what lawyers earn. On this note, OL can also raise the status of vocational jobs.
There may be studies from other advanced countries arguing against it, claiming it will lead to increased prices, etc.
This is true, but we must consider that the money spent locally will re-circulate within the economy.
Plus, the developed countries can afford to minimise OL because their labour markets have already reached maturity, unlike here in Brunei.
For example, in the United States (US) one-quarter of their labour currently holds OL. Economic context matters. Our local labour should get priority when it comes to securing meaningful work and make a decent living in our country.
If we act now, the unemployment levels can be brought down while the billions spent on training and educating our young people in the vocational route will bring in dividends in no time.
Abdul Malik Omar