BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – Unemployment was among the top issues discussed on the second day of the 15th Legislative Council meeting as parliamentarians called on government and private sector to intervene and tackle Brunei’s increasing rate of unemployment.

Brunei’s unemployment rate rose to 9.3 percent in 2017 from 6.9 percent in 2014, making it highest in ASEAN. 

Citing a projection based on the 2017 Labour Force Survey, Legislative Council member YB Siti Rozaimeriyanty DSLJ Hj Abd Rahman said without any intervention, Brunei’s unemployment rate may reach 16.1 percent by 2024.

As part of efforts to combat the issue, she proposed for the i-Ready programme — designed to provide apprenticeship opportunity for unemployed graduates —  to be extended to graduates from technical educational institutions.

The extension, she said would allow these graduates to gain industry exposure. She reiterated the need for youths to receive hands-on training in collaboration with academic leaders, industry players and the government.

In order to see significant results in the country’s development, YB Siti Rozaimeriyanty noted that there is a need to invest in the youth. “We must train students for the jobs of tomorrow because the jobs of today has become less relevant in the digital era,” she said.

In the same session, YB Khairunnisa Ash’ari said the rising rate of unemployment has created fear and uncertainties.

“We do not only need more jobs in the public sector, but economic stimulus to enable businesses to grow.

“To achieve growth in the private sector, government agencies need to strengthen their role as facilitators by providing a strong, transparent and facilitate infrastructure and process. This helps in creating job opportunities and reducing unemployment,” she said.

The education sector serves to ensure that the quality of teaching in both its techniques and content is up-to-date, and in line with national and regional needs, she said.

However, YB Khairunnisa added that knowledge alone is not sufficient, it should be accompanied with soft skills, which are needed to produce youths that are innovative, determined and resilient.

Meanwhile, YB Ramli Hj Lahit proposed for the establishment of a “Manpower Projection Unit”, to analyse the job market demand and needs in order for Brunei to produce more marketable graduates.

The Minister of Energy, Manpower and Industry, YB Dato Seri Setia Mat Suny, during the Legislative Council meeting. Photo: Hazimul Wa’ie/The Scoop

Other areas that needs to be looked into, according to the Tutong district representative, are jobs held by foreigners which can be handed over to qualified locals.

“There are many instances where we have qualified locals who are fit to take on positions being held by foreigners. However it’s not our wish to completely eradicate the foreign workforce, but we need to look into jobs that can be filled by locals,” he said.

Acknowledging national issues pertaining to the economy and unemployment, the minister of Energy, Manpower and Industry (MEMI) said that his ministry is committed to finding solutions. However, he said that tackling them will require the involvement of all levels of society.

“[MEMI] will continue to find innovative ways to address these challenges,” YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mat Suny Hj Md Hussein said, adding that in this fast-evolving era of ICT, Brunei needs to be quicker to action.