BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – With unemployment looming large in public discourse, Legislative Council members on Tuesday urged cabinet ministers on the to open up more job opportunities in the public sector in order to curb growing unemployment.

LegCo member YB Pg Hj Mohamed Pg Hj Othman asked why there was still a hiring freeze on a number of civil service positions, given that Brunei’s unemployment rate has risen from 6.9 percent in 2014 to 9.3 percent in 2017.

Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office, YB Dato Seri Setia Hj Abd Mokti Hj Mohd Damit, responded that they will re-evaluate the priority level of the vacant positions and how they serve the needs of the respective ministries, but did not disclose how many positions were affected by the hiring freeze.

“These vacancies have to be frozen to make way for positions that require immediate attention, but regardless, this matter will be revisited,” he said.

Responding to another query on the lengthy process of filling government positions, the minister acknowledged the delay saying that the sheer number of applicants slows down the process.

“As an example, there was one position that was advertised where 4,000 applicants vied for the position. Considering the number of vacancies with the number of applicants, even with computerisation, there is still a human aspect at play [to evaluate applications]”.

The minister added that the Public Service Commission is working to speed up the process.

YB Pg Hj Mohamed, a village head from Kg Masid Lama in Muara, also asked about the number of registered jobseekers at the Public Service Commission and JobCentre Brunei, hoping to understand which avenue was more popular.

According to the Minister of Energy, Manpower and Industry, YB Dato Seri Setia Dr Hj Mat Suny Hj Md Hussien, the number of registered jobseekers under JobCentre has risen by two percent in the past year to 24,938.

Of this figure, about 9,540 users represent active jobseekers without work, while 15,398 users are employed but seeking new opportunities. According to the latest statistics on the JobCentre website, there are 1,393 advertised vacancies.

The number of applicants under the Public Service Commission was not disclosed, but the minister shared that about 5,258 applicants have found employment under JobCentre.