All-out effort to bring down unemployment rate

Lyna Mohamad

Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office and Minister of Finance and Economy II Dato Seri Setia Dr Awang Haji Mohd Amin Liew bin Abdullah said that the country is attempting to bring down the unemployment rate to four per cent, or even lower.

In an interview with the Bulletin at the opening of the Julangan Titah Graduan Bersepadu yesterday, the minister said, “Previously, the unemployment rate was 9.3 per cent, then it went down to 8.7 per cent and currently stands at 6.8 per cent.

“Every year, we have about 6,500 graduates coming into the labour market. So if you are hiring people, it is a constant moving target. Even with many being hired this year, there are still new people coming into the labour market,” he said.

On the establishment of Graduan Bersepadu, he said, “Junjung Kasih to His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam, since it is actually an initiative by His Majesty with the objective of providing job opportunities and experience to local graduates.”

“This should definitely help with the unemployment rate, but of course, the question is: to what extent are we going to do this?

“Hopefully this concept can be replicated elsewhere and if that can be managed, then it would really bring down our unemployment rate.

“Unemployment is handled by the Manpower Planning and Employment Council, which is constantly looking into the issue. During the COVID-19 outbreak, JobCentre Brunei called up many businesses and encouraged them to take local people.

Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports Major General (Rtd) Dato Paduka Seri Awang Haji Aminuddin Ihsan bin Pehin Orang Kaya Saiful Mulok Dato Seri Paduka Haji Abidin during a tour of Graduan Bersepadu. PHOTO: MUIZ MATDANI

“From the start of this year up to the present, about 4,500 new jobs were created and so far only 50 per cent of that number has been hired.

“The remainder are in the process of being interviewed. We are actually speeding up our process in terms of interviews and so on. Once the employers find someone whom they like, they can employ them immediately.

“In the past, the hiring process was longer, but now we can get someone hired within two to three weeks.

“We also created i-Ready Apprenticeship Programme for TVET and HND graduates, and a number of people are taking the opportunity to hire them. This is support from our side, as many businesses couldn’t bring in foreign workers or had to curtail their activities when a lot of foreign workers went home.

“When the country began the process of de-escalation and businesses began to pick up, they needed people, but it’s not easy to bring foreigners in. Currently, training is being provided for locals, to enable them to start working when companies are hiring.

“What is important is for them to start working. Once they do so, they gain experience and they will be able to make choices later, when other opportunities arise.

“As for the government sector, we are constantly trying to get new jobs in that area as well.

“When we try to bring in foreign direct investors, they will set up plants, factories and so on.

At the moment, we are still looking at a number of new investments, which could create more jobs for the locals.

“But while this is not ready yet, it is hoped that people will work wherever they can. When some of these new investment materialise, they can decide whether these new opportunities are suited to them or otherwise.”

Regarding Julangan Titah Graduan Bersepadu, Dato Seri Setia Dr Awang Haji Mohd Amin Liew described it as encouraging effort while providing the graduates a platform to gain experience.

“If you look at the housing scheme areas, they don’t have many grocery, book or clothing stores, so the residents would need to drive to the nearest town to make purchases,” he said.

“If goods or small items can be obtained easily within a walking distance, then it’s an advantage, infused with a sense of community spirit, as the people running these businesses are locals.”

Minister of Primary Resources and Tourism Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Ali bin Apong applauded the graduates’ willingness to embrace new ideas. “They are no longer in their comfort zone and bold enough to step into something unrelated to their academic background,” he said.

“Graduates are now regarded as resolute, with the capability to contribute towards the nation. Their determination to start a business which is irrelevant to their academic field shows the graduates’ willpower to move forward on a positive note.

“At the same time, we are grateful that His Majesty’s Government is providing opportunities for graduates to venture into entrepreneurship, not merely as a platform, but also in the aspects of reskilling and upskilling to venture into different fields.”

Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports Major General (Rtd) Dato Paduka Seri Awang Haji Aminuddin Ihsan bin Pehin Orang Kaya Saiful Mulok Dato Seri Paduka Haji Abidin, meanwhile, expressed his admiration for the initiative by the Office of His Majesty through Julangan Titah.

“There are so many business activities available to graduates from universities and colleges across the country, including operating restaurants, supermarkets and a boutique for local handicrafts such as Brunei batik and weaving,” he said.

“I am impressed with the graduates’ eagerness to take up this opportunity, and hopefully there will be more graduates who will come forward to benefit from this initiative.

“I hope that the graduates involved in Graduan Bersepadu will continue being active in entrepreneurship by opening up their own business or collaborating with others to start up businesses, which will activate the nation’s economy and reduce the unemployment rate.”