THE report “Varsity students opt for cleaning job” (The Star, Aug 7) about students taking up cleaning jobs to earn income in between their studies may sound trivial in comparison to other exciting news that grab our attention. To the students, it’s a big relief that they are able to get such part-time jobs to supplement what they get from their families. For students who come from poor families, such opportunity to earn income means a lot to their ability to complete their university studies.
Students who go through the experience of fending for themselves early in life will learn a lot about the value of money and the need to be thrifty in their expenditure. As they go through the chores of working life, they will get exposed to various aspects of human character. The street education will add to their maturity and develop their personality to become self-confident in facing the difficulties that come their way when they later graduate to join the employment market. When they go for job interviews, employers can see the difference between those graduates who are greenhorns and those who are streetwise and have the potential to be team players and have the right work attitudes.
Efforts should be made by the Government, private sector and GLCs to expand the part-time working opportunities for students so that they can be self-reliant in earning for their fees and living expenses and thereby reduce the financial burden on their parents.
When I was a student in the United States, I saw how my fellow graduate students worked in various jobs in the university to earn income. They cleaned student apartment blocks, collected the garbage, served as waiters in campus cafeterias, worked as library assistants, or did typing of papers for other students. Our universities should do the same to employ their students on campus jobs instead of using foreign workers for everything.
Hotels, airports, hospitals, restaurants, bus companies and supermarkets should also be directed to use less foreign labour and to work out flexible work schedules that will attract students and others looking for part-time work, such as housewives and retirees.
GLCs too should be instructed to offer part-time jobs for students and retired citizens. We can see at Changi Airport elderly locals cleaning the toilets and floors and earning money to supplement their retirement pensions and savings. As they are elderly, they cannot work all day. The airport allows them to work short hours.
Such opportunities should be created to give our elderly people something useful to do.
All these efforts to create work opportunities for students, housewives, elderly citizens and retirees can add up to a significant contribution in alleviating urban poverty. Malaysia should restrict the use of foreign labour so that employers in both the public and private sectors have no choice but to tap the students, women and the elderly and incentivise them to come out into the labour market by offering them flexible working hours and fair wages. The more they are absorbed into part-time employment, the fewer poor and desperate families we have in the country.
As studies show, a family that has more than one income earner is less likely to be in poverty than a family where there is only one income provider. This is particularly true in urban areas where there are many costs to pay for. The Government should come out with a policy to create opportunities for additional members of the family to earn money in part-time jobs, particularly for those who have no qualifications and can only do simple unskilled jobs.