KUALA LUMPUR: As low salaries may push more people towards the gig economy, Malaysia is looking to revise minimum wages to ensure better take-up of job opportunities prepared by the government.

Human Resources Minister Datuk Seri M. Saravanan said that despite the rollout of initiatives which cost billions of ringgit to create job opportunities, it has been challenging for the ministry to convince employers to offer decent salaries to potential workers.

“If they do not get anything more than RM1,200, I think they’ll prefer to be in the gig economy. This is a big challenge,” he said at the launch of the JaminKerja Keluarga Malaysia initiative themed “Keluarga Malaysia, Makmur Sejahtera” yesterday.

Saravanan said the government is studying the possibility of increasing minimum wage, which currently stands at RM1,200, to attract potential employees who might otherwise lean towards the gig economy or those that allow them to work from home.

“If not, we will face a challenge in convincing them to take up the opportunities rolled out by agencies under the ministry,” he said.

Saravanan previously said that a minimum wage of around RM1,500 was expected to be implemented before the year-end.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob said the government is holding engagement sessions with employers on the RM1,500 minimum wage to enable it to be implemented holistically.

He said for this purpose, the Human Resources Ministry is holding discussions with unions, including Cuepacs and employers.

“We are undertaking engagement with all employers on this minimum wage, because there are companies that can afford it but there are also those that are too small and can’t.

“We’re afraid that if they can’t afford it, they will retrench workers and this will add to unemployment numbers.

“We are not protecting employers, our interest is employees… if employees’ minimum wage can be raised to RM1,500, that is for the best,” he told reporters yesterday.

As for JaminKerja, Saravanan said the government expects 300,000 people to gain employment through it this year, adding that RM2bil had been allocated for initiatives related to these target groups.

This would include those who have lost their jobs, the unemployed, vulnerable groups such as senior citizens, the differently abled, former inmates, army veterans, Orang Asli, unemployed youths and women.

“The focus will also be on individuals entering the critical sectors such as tourism to help spur the recovery of these sectors,” Saravanan said, adding that Socso will provide the necessary job-related services through the MYFutureJobs portal.

JaminKerja is an extension of the PenjanaKerjaya initiative which helped more than 200,000 unemployed people secure jobs last year.

Finance Minister Tengku Datuk Seri Zafrul Tengku Abdul Aziz, who also spoke at the launch, said RM1.7bil has been allocated under the MySTEP programme which is set to create 80,000 job opportunities.

MyStep is a programme under the National Strategic Coordination Agency (Laksana) where short-term contract jobs are offered at government-linked companies.

Last year, 63,221 graduates found placements under MySTEP, with 66% employed under ministries and government agencies, and 34% at government-linked companies and strategic partners.

“Therefore, I hope job seekers will make good use of all the opportunities under the Finance Ministry and Human Resources Ministry, whether through this job carnival or online through portals such as MyFutureJobs; MySTEP and UpSkillMalaysia,” he said.

Tengku Zafrul said Budget 2022 and the 12th Malaysia Plan will propel the economy to a stronger footing.

This, he said, will allow the government to rebuild the economy so that it will be stronger and more resilient than it was before the Covid-19 pandemic hit.