BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – His Majesty the Sultan on Thursday reminded jobseekers to not be picky when looking for employment, despite the fact that many graduates still favour government jobs.

Speaking at Hari Raya celebrations organised by the Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Foundation, the monarch urged youth to be more open to working in the private sector, saying it would be the main driver of economic growth.

“In this country, we have resilient businesses which have long existed and that have been on the forefront of building the economy and overcoming its challenges,” he said in a titah at the International Convention Centre. 

“Whether seeking employment in the private sector, or setting up businesses such as farming or fishing, if it is done with patience and perseverance the blessings will be great.”

The sultan added that he was confident the private sector would be prepared to provide employment opportunities to Brunei’s youth.

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UNEMPLOYMENT, A NATIONAL CONCERN

His Majesty was driving home a point he made in another speech last February, during the first meeting of new cabinet ministers following a surprise reshuffle

In that titah, he said the job market was already saturated and that there was a need to inculcate a culture of independence and entrepreneurship among youth. 

In 2014, the Economic Planning and Development Department put Brunei’s unemployment rate at 6.9 percent — more than double than the ASEAN average of 3.3 percent — with an updated figure expected to be released this year with the publication of the Labour Force Survey. 

However, researchers at the Centre for Strategic and Policy Studies, a Brunei-based think tank, have said that youth unemployment is even higher, at close to 30 percent.

According to the JobCentre Brunei website, there are 9,218 active jobseekers registered in its system and 4,685 job vacancies.

During the Hari Raya event on Thursday, more than 1,000 graduates under the i-Ready scheme were invited to participate in a job-matching fair with representatives from 130 companies.

The government claims that the i-Ready Apprenticeship Programme has helped reduce graduate unemployment by 27 percent in the past year by providing paid work placements for 629 degree holders registered with JobCentre. Of that number, 146 secured permanent jobs.

During a session of the Legislative Council back in March, the government said the overall number of registered jobseekers had decreased by 15 percent — from 11,292 in April 2017 to to 9,509 in February 2018 — mainly due to apprenticeship and “re-skilling” programmes.

However, the government acknowledged that country was still highly dependent on foreign labour in the construction, hospitality, retail, and vehicle repair industries.