Unemployed graduates have doubled since 2008


While our universities and colleges are churning out graduates by the tens of thousands, we are saddled with a serious problem: the number of unemployed graduates has doubled since 2008.

Graphic credit: The Edge Daily

Why are we training so many graduates to meet the needs of industry when clearly industry can’t absorb them fast enough? According to an analysis in the Edge Daily, 12 per cent of graduates are unemployed as of 2009. And 60 per cent of the unemployed are graduates.

That’s 98000 unemployed graduates and 76000 unemployed diploma holders. Clearly the government has a problem here in meeting the expectations of graduates who expect to find white-collar or well-paying blue-collar jobs.

Now we hear that the duration of non-technical polytechnic diploma courses in commerce and hospitality will be shortened to two and half years from the current three to save time and costs. The government wants to create 1.5m skilled workers. And it is aiming to churn out 680000 diploma holders by 2020. (See NST report: ‘Polytechnic courses to be shortened by up to a year‘)

Or is the problem related to the quality of these graduates – a sad reflection of the state of our institutions of higher learning today?

How about teaching our students more useful living skills and showing them how to start their own small businesses to enable them to survive in today’s world? How about more colleges and training institutes that will teach relevant skills to enable diploma holders and graduates to be self-reliant and self-employed?

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Jeremy Soong

Overproduction of low quality local graduates by BN administration not supported by policy that creates value-added jobs. Another example of overzealousness in elevating bumi status without proper planning and emphasis of meritocracy.

Not surprise that many local university students are now showing their frustration, as evident in the PTPTN protest, and their effort to ‘Occupy Dataran Merdeka’. Are they biting the hands of Umno that is deceiving them all this while? We shall see.


Undergraduates in Malaysia spent time studying subjects irrelevant to job requirements and irrelevant to the discipline they take up. Eg. “TITAS” is compulsory in many courses. It stands for “Tamadum Islam and Tamadum Asia” or something like that. Those mapping out this requirement will claim that everyone should know their past and so on. Well, it is even better if everyone also knows how to cure cancer or how to go to the moon ? Don’t make students spend valuable time at the college studying subjects not relevant to their courses or their future jobs. Eg. leave TITAS to those… Read more »


High level of jobless graduates in Malaysia is a reflection of the UMNO-led failed education policies which began during Mahathir’s PMship when the ethnic quota system was introduced. This led to the lowering of admission standards and subsequent lowering of educational standards just to ensure that the Bumi quotas were filled and not too many of the academically poor intake failed to graduate. The outcome is poor quality graduates, many of whom subsequently became poor teachers, producing even poorer students. All this is reflected in international comparisons of academic performance where Malaysian students trail further and further behind students elsewhere.… Read more »


I am looking for some statistics to help my paper (i am a student).
I would like a clarification regarding the study. Is it:
i- statistics of malaysia done by the bank/ministry of netherlands
ii- statistics of netherlands and NOT malaysia.

Please help as I do not want to incorrectly quote unrelated data on my paper.



Are you a Malaysian student?

If yes, you should just ‘cut & paste’ as your university professor is equally as dumb to know the difference!

Saufi Ismail


I am sure you got your degree (if you got one) by doing what you are asking the student to do. Go get a life.


IMHO, what we need is a mindset change. We don’t need graduate retraining scheme, or Universities to cater to industrial needs ie teach them exactly what the industry is using/doing. That would be giving them the fish. What we really need to do is to teach our kids how to fish for themselves. No university in the world will teach you the exact things you need in your working environment. It’s about building people who are able to think and analyse well. Which are also the very two things lacking in our graduates. If we teach them the exact skills(such… Read more »


The fact that we need to ‘retrain’ the graduates has confirmed the fact that the quality of our local universities are dubious and not up to the mark. The curriculum offered are not relevant to the needs of the industry. Yet this problem is continued to be brushed aside as the primary objective, I guess, is to produce as many graduates to fulfil the call of melayu boleh. Very sad indeed.


The education ministers should resign for the poor performance.


Graduated from Malaysia universities and colleges doesn’t necessarily means the students are equipped with marketable skill and possess special talent or knowledge, one need to understand that local public tertiary education institutions are based on factors other than pre-tertiary level academic excellent in entrance examination for admission into universities and colleges. Leading to many un-employable graduates that can’t meet the minimum standard of international requirement in reading, math and science of Professional association like engineering, computer, medicine except some religion and civic courses.

Han Chiang

Unemployed Malaysian Graduates have opportunity to work in Africa as recent Langkawi dialog has paved ways for it to be “happenings” very soon ?
1st delegation will be led by Pemandu chief Datuk Idris Jala to Zimbawie under new treaty signed with President Mugabe ?

Plain Truth

Dylan Dog,

It was a fund manager with a foreign outfit who made the prediction (about 2 years back) that Malaysia would export maids within the next 20 years.

Malaysia Insider carried an article on it then.

A foreign fund manager who on his maiden visit to Malaysia once told me that the most shocking thing that he discovered was a landscape filled with rent seekers.


We interviewed software engineers from UM, USM, UKM. MMU and did not find even one qualified. Found a kid in NZ who could do a better job at cheaper price..

Ayub Razib

Three Singapore universities have been ranked within the world’s top 200 in economics and accounting, two of the subjects most prized by employers. National University of Singapore (NUS), Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and Singapore Management University (SMU) were given the impressive placings by Quacquarelli Symonds (QS). The education networking company ranks universities based on various methods such as peer reviews. It placed NUS 16th in economics, and 15th in accounting and finance. NTU ranked between 51st and 100th for economics and 44th for accounting and finance, and SMU came between 151st and 200th for both subjects. QS Intelligence Unit head… Read more »


… As a country in pending economic distress, our leader should equip our private sector with the best financial, investment, HR training and R&D resources to do battle in the global economic arena of the Coliseum. No mincing of hard ball policies mean to ‘kill’ the competitors in the increasingly ‘Kill or Be Killed’ global investment and economic war game, economic cooperation politeness asides. Who will ever give you a dime as being thy neighbor’s beggars, once a roaring corporate tiger in the 80’s? As a strong leadership should be / expected in such dire circumstances, he should strategize with… Read more »


I am in the hiring profession. I am not a racist but I get a lot of applications from unemployed graduates who are non-chinese. I always wonder where have all the chinese one to.

Positions that are difficult to fill are now getting abundant supply. A good example is nurses

Phua Kai Lit

They’ve gone to work in factories in Singapore.

Others are working as car mechanics, beauticians or selling pirated CDs and DVDs.


I have heard a similar question before from my neigbour. He managed a large chemical factory. He wondered where have all the Chinese chemical engineers gone, because he could not find them in the job market.

charlie chan

with the economic cake shrinking n all the restrictions on Foreign Investors, there are little opportunities to get employment, our smart neighbors like Indonesia< thailand, Vietnam, singapore n Thailand are taking away all the foreign investment, with PERKASA shouting like a clown n utusan SPINNING- these guys r driving away foreign investors instead of welcoming them. when the economy does crashes, we malaysians then will understand the follies of our poor leaders decision n all the wrong policies, refusal to reform n change in a globalised economy is fatal


We have so many vacancies that we are having Burmese, Vietmanese, Bangla and Indonesians working here – ie more than 1 million in factories, hospitalities, agriculture. Why the Imbalance? There will be increase in such vacancies and so increase in unemployment in graduates. It is better for the parents to give the universities fees as a starting capital for their children. Look most rich guys in Malaysia are w/o any degrees because they are like SAS who dare win but graduates are those who dare lose.

Phua Kai Lit

After a regime change, this situation needs to be rectified quickly.

Perhaps by encouraging unemployed and underemployed university graduates to go back to school (heavily subsidised) to improve their English, technical skills, communication skills etc ?

The current regime is leaving a lot of mess (of all kinds) for a future, more progressive regime to clean up!

najib manaukau

Append hereunder are examples of what the outside world think of the educational standard in Malaysia is. Students in Malaysia would need an aggregate of 90% marks in their last examination when applying for a student visa to study in Australia. Whereas students from Singapore would need only 70% marks in their last examination for a student visa to be granted. Therefore the very top students in Malaysia are only students of average intelligence in Singapore. Now you know why after 42 years after the establishment of NEP and after billions of dollars, if not trillions of dollars, spent sending… Read more »


Previously before being accepted into Form 6, your Senior Cambridge results must be good and you would have to pass QT (Qualifying Test). Getting into Form 6 is already hard task let alone getting into U. Then you would need to have good grade in the HSC, the equivalent of STPM.

Now you just need SPM to go into U and thats the quality we are getting. How easy to get into U compared to the 50`s and 60s.


Matriculation mah. Easy ticket to Uni mah. Easier than Form 6 mah. Less 1 year mah.
But see how many of those admitted into matriculation and your racial number guess is as good as mine. Easy ticket mah.

And finally easy to be jobless after UNi mah!

As in kung fu, if the student is not toughened in strict expectation and training, then one is churning out Tau Kua for the assailants of competition (market place) to easily kau tim (defeat or bypass) to irrelevance.



Dylan Dog

It is not polite to write in capitals.

tan, tanjung bungah

Hi everyone, Democratisation of Education in Malaysia means compromising standards at SPM, STPM and local university levels!! So much so that established foreign university recruitment officers do not believe in the SPM and STPM paper qualifications of applicants anymore! Many with string of As in these public exams. are found so lacking in the foreign universities and even foreigners are now aware that the standard set for distinctions has been compromised, after all a few marks lowered for any subject would result in thousands and thousands more candidates obtaining the A-grade! The UMNO-led govts. have all along played politics with… Read more »


WTH you talking about “Democratisation of Education in Malaysia”. Malaysia education NEVER in so called “Democratisation” mode, but rather in post-colonisation colonial master mode.

Do your search on Malaysia university number, and compare that to country like Thailand, Taiwan, Korea, etc. Without political connection, no new university can be set up in Malaysia!

semuanya OK kot

One wit suggsted some ago that there would be less damage all around if we paid these people RM 1K to 2K allowance to stay at home. This might work if (a) there are no restrictions on how and from where employers source there staff (b) the beneficiaries are prohibited from driving during peak traffic hours.


Anil, Are you sure you quoted the correct figures ? What else do you expect from a country, to begin with, literally has only third world varsities, with third world lecturers and professors and third world facilities. These varsities are so below par that the government themselves are only sending the ‘top’ students to foreign universities and admit the ‘unwanted’ students in the country’s varsities. Obtaining a degree from the local varsities is just like obtaining a high school certificate, if you lucky and hard working. I had the misfortune to work with some of them some years back, oh… Read more »


Just by browsing the appointments section in the papers, we can see there are many vacancies. However there seems to be a mismatch between what our universities are producing and what the industries require. Furthermore even with their low ‘start-up’ capabilities, these new graduates wants good pay but are choosy. They do not want jobs with heavy responsibilities; which are far away from home, with long hours etc etc.. It is no surprise to employers, some graduates turned jobs down when offered because they felt the jobs were not ‘suitable’. Turn-over are also high since jobs are aplenty. Even some… Read more »


Jamaluddin, I wonder where your business reside in, I hope it is not in KL, and don’t require the employee possess their own transport. Otherwise, they will fetch home more money working in KFC,Mc donald. I did work with RM450 pay in very early day, but that 20+ years history.


All these unemployable grads should ask their parents, who put these UMNO morons as administrators of the nation GE after GE!..still a fair big number still sucking up with these racist … in the BN coalition. Want to blame, blame it on the deception jerks, compulsive liars and corrupted…
Worse is, there is still no silver lining appearing in the sky!


This is the outcome of the shortsighted racially motivated policies that has lead to this vicious cycle that cannot be broken overnight. Lower quality graduate results in companies either sourcing staff from offshore and eventually moving offshore to get the right resource. Accordingly, more talented people eventually also move overseas for better prospects. In turn, more educated graduates leave as well and you are left with the less talented pool of graduates. The key to fixing malaysia in my personal opinion is to fix our education system. Fix that and eventually over time, we will regain our place in Asia.… Read more »


It’s too late. To wait for the next one generation to fix this EDU-HR problem of the nation is too late. Ask this Apanama who knew it all to his own cranial void. Void of true national progress but filled with racist…

Dylan Dog

That apanama tried to put right the malay dilemma by having as many graduans (quantity, not quality) as possible by mushrooming local universiti nationwide, while having them driving Protons (the one with the perpetual power window problem) to show their ‘arrival’ when balik kampung.

With MMMMBI replacing PPSMI, the future will be bleaker for the next generation.


BN has been churning up large number of local graduates without due consideration for quality (laxed admission not based on meritocracy, irrelevant courses that do not meet the needs of the industry). The bloated civil servant is a testimony that it has reached a saturation point and BN could not afford to absorb them because of decreasing fund.

Ultimately we (may see dissent or protests) from these graduates against the government when they are so frustrated that they could not land the job they desire while barang naik phenomenon continue to take place?

Hiring manager

I’m in the electronics sector in Penang with an MNC, and we do have open reqs. Many in fact. But getting a suitable fresh graduate is very difficult. For every 20 that I interview, I _might_ hire one or two. These are graduates with engineering degrees, but their knowledge on engineering is so shallow. There is a limit on what we in the industry can teach and train, but if these graduates do not at least master the fundamentals required, then there is no way we can hire them. To put it succinctly, skill wise, hiring these “graduates” are no… Read more »


These graduates are just simply unemployable in the tech industry. A few years ago, I was talking to a young Malaysian in US. He was an engineering graduate and had been working for a a year or so in an electronic manufacturing company in US. He was explaining a new engineering graduate is expected to be on top of his specialty. The new hire is expected to learn the new things in the university and not at the work place. The work place is where the new graduate is expected to put his knowledge to work. In Malaysia, the engineering… Read more »


Unfortunately, I bet your HR manager are going to screen out potential candidates that doesn’t possess “nice paper”. In those “good old days”, people with good fundamental, good attitude but financial incapable to attend university, still able to get engineer job and perform shining because they know they are missing the financial head start compare to those univesity graduate. Should anyone blame their HR manager? I notice in the job street, a few company does conduct some “technical graduate course”, an pay-job basic technical training for specific company that use particular skill/tools. I wonder how many university graduate attend such… Read more »