Thursday, January 6, 2011



Is it a real issue ?

Unemployment is perceived to be a global issue. It is a general perception that both developed and developing nations around the world are facing such unwelcome phenomenon. The extent and degree of the problem / dilemma; the way it is tackled; and/or level of commitment put in by relevant local authorities to tackle such problem, vary from country to country. One thing is certain, it does not occur naturally. It is a by-product of national development and progress, or rather lack of it.

It certainly has an impact on economic, political and social scenes of affected country. Unemployment is some kind of a disease that does not recognize cultural background, be it nationality, political parties, genders, ages, social status, educational or academic status of individual.

Victims of unemployment phenomena are usually (as it is perceived) members of the society living in the affected country.

Questions …….. ! Are the above observations really true facts? Is unemployment an issue? Do we really understand the term unemployment? Do we define it correctly? Or are we being misled by our own confusion and failure to genuinely understand the term unemployment? Are we not wasting energy and money trying to tackle / resolve a perceived issue (unemployment) which may not even an issue itself?

Over recent years, His Majesty’s government had spent billion of dollars to curb the so-called perceived unemployment issue in the country. But is the spending worthwhile? Do we see unemployment as an issue has now been put in check?

Let’s looks deeper and try to really understand the definition of the term ‘unemployment’ ………… All countries in this world are going through their own varying degree of national progression and development. Beside a well established infra-structures and sound governance, efficient utilization of the people within a country certainly attributed to the success of the country in pursuit of progress (also known as nation building).

As a member of the population, individual resides or living in a particular country is regarded as national asset to that country. As a productive national asset, the individual is expected to bring value to the country’s wealth. The value generated comes from what the individual could offer to the country’s progress and development.

The word ‘employment’ normally associated with a group of eligible people, who belong to a group categorized as labor force or workforce, which usually represents a fraction of a country total population. When individual from such labor force or workforce group losses his / her job, or becomes jobless, or being made redundant, or being made idle, or being without a job for certain time period, such individual is regarded as unemployed.

Based on the above definition, one can only be regarded as unemployed when one losses one’s status as being employed. For those who have not yet enjoy employment status cannot be regarded as unemployed!

Let try to illustrate this. The extent of the development or progress of a nation is measured by it’s achievement in developing economical, social and political advancement and stability. Beside establishing strong & stable infra-structure and sound & transparent governance, a country must structure a comprehensive human development plan / program for its people - being the most productive asset that act as the engine that generate the power of progress and success.

Both public and private sectors of a country should play pivotal role in creating and establishing jobs that need to be fill that can support the country development and growth. People who fill up the jobs are referred to as members of the labor force or workforce. The total number of labor force or workforce needed is dependent on capability and capacity (including financial strength) of the country to develop and grow.

For this scenario to happen both public and private sectors must create certain numbers of job, and subsequently fill up the jobs with eligible and qualified person. Once the person sit in the jobs they are considered being employed.

In the event ALL the jobs are filled up by appropriate eligible people then at that point ‘unemployment’ level should stand at zero point. When gap appears due to people lost job or due to misalignment between the job and its incumbent, then unemployment becomes a reality. If leave unchecked, the number unemployed would get larger hence unemployment rate also increases.
Some possible causes people get unemployed:

  • Rapid changes in technology

  • Recessions & economic depression

  • Inflation

  • Disability

  • Undulating business cycles

  • Attitude towards employers

  • Attitude towards employees

  • Unwillingness to work

  • Perception of employees, and Employee value

  • Discriminating factors

Some of the reasons why an individual gets unemployed are attributed to the individual’s own doing, such as:

  • Laziness

  • Lack of education

  • low qualification

  • lack of effort

  • behavior and attitude

In some cases, it is due to external factors that is beyond individual influence such as :

  • cultural background

  • population

  • education system

  • lack of family support

Should such eligible individual becomes unemployed, it’s not only caused a burden to the individual and his/her immediate circle of family members, but also to the country as a whole. For every unemployed individual, he or she becomes liabilities to the development effort of the country. This becomes more burdensome among those countries with small population such as Negara Brunei Darussalam.

But who are really regarded as eligible individual in this context?
Let try to isolate those people who do not fall under such group of eligible workforce that need to be discounted. These people include;

  • Non-working spouses

  • Children below the age eligible for employment
    o Young kids (yet to attend school)
    o Students / Youths attending some form of education

  • University students seeking to obtain academic qualification

  • School leavers who do not possess sufficient academic qualifications to meet requirements required by jobs being prescribed

  • Those who have medical or physical disability that prevent them from being eligible to become members of the labor or workforce.

  • Those who reach retirement age (retirees / pensioners)

In the context of Negara Brunei Darussalam, after discounting the above group of people, how many left among those so-called eligible individual? Do we really know (or fully understand) the exact total number of eligible labor force or workforce? What percentage does it represent over official total population of the country? Without full knowledge of such numbers, based on the above definition of ‘unemployment’, how could we determine the correct ‘rate of unemployment’ in the country? Do we really know exact number of Bruneians who can be regarded as unemployed?

If we cannot come up with such accurate numbers for the above, how can the relevant authority, in this case the Labor Department, register, manage and address ‘unemployment’ issue in Negara Brunei Darussalam? Without knowing the above, how relevant and meaningful the ‘unemployment number or rate’ that are being formally declared and announced in the official reports, be it in local and electronic media?

Are we in Brunei being misled or misinformed to believe that unemployment is a genuinely real issue? Could it be the lack of knowledge or understanding of the term ‘unemployment’ is the actual issue?

Perhaps, unemployment is not really a critical issue! Perhaps the critical issue is something else that is yet to be identified and understood.

What is clear though – how the relevant authorities in this country can be sure that ALL able and productive people (national asset) in our beloved country, Negara Brunei Darussalam, are being utilized to the optimum?

Beside the various groupings identified above, there are also groups categorized as:

  • graduates,

  • school leavers,

  • ex convicts

  • local entrepreneurs who do not have any business or projects to work on.

These groups may not fully qualify to be regarded as eligible labor force or workforce but they are still regarded as productive asset of the country. Although there are no jobs prescribed for them to fill up, they are able body who still carry certain value that could contribute towards development and growth of the country. These people certainly seeking for jobs (which may not yet exist).

Can the country afford to waste ALL these asset? Given the population of Negara Brunei Darussalam is relatively small, shouldn’t the relevant authorities within His Majesty’s Government as well as leaders of the private sectors put a concerted effort to come up with a human development plan with the objectives to optimize the utilization of scarce but productive human resource in the country.

In alignment with the national aspiration, there should be a long term plan which includes among other a strategy which identify strength and talent of each and every individual resided in the country. Such identified strength and talent are then mapped to strategic plan that support the national development. For example, those individuals who have strong academic acumen should be allowed encouraged with appropriate support to excel in his / her education pursuit. They must be provided with necessary assistance and facilities to achieve their ambitions. On the other hand there are those who are not so strong academically but possess certain talents in the areas of sports, art, handy-works, fieldworks, etc etc. Then different but relevant assistance, support and facilities are to be provided to allow such individuals to excel in their respective fields. Whether they are in academic or non-academic streams, it is essential that from early age, to instill commercial mindset upon the individuals. Each and every individual must be taught, and capable to think, commercially. They have to be able to recognize and appreciate the principle of “Value For Money”. In different words, they must appreciate that nothing is free in the world. Everything we do and achieved has to be earned.

If the plan could be put into work, the following (but not exhaustive) could potentially become reality:

  • unemployment is something of the past,

  • Bruneian people are fully utilized

  • Brunei will excel not only in educational fronts, but also in sports, cultural & arts, businesses, IT&C, technologies etc

  • State welfare effort will be at the minimum

Of course, to make the above a reality, all concern parties, be it from the Government or non-Governmental sectors, must work together and agree to achieve common goal that would benefit the country as a whole.

Bersatu kita teguh, bercerai kita rubuh ………. !


Dr Haji Mohd Hatta Bin Hj Zainal Abidin PSB, PJP

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