Low wages and student debt are two reasons why some youths say they rather not further their studies after sitting for their Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) examination.
“I have a diploma but my salary is the same as that of a SPM holder,” says a food delivery rider who only wanted to be known as Mohammad Aqil.
The 26-year-old was once the manager of a restaurant before quitting and joining the thousands of food delivery riders out on the roads every day – where they can earn far more.
“The problem is that salaries are too low in our country. Even though I have a diploma, my salary is not much different from that of someone with just a SPM qualification,” he said.
“After graduating with a diploma, I have at least RM16,000 in student debt. People who don’t continue to study have no debt, but their salary is the same as mine. So why continue studying? It’s not relevant anymore.
“The prices of goods are rising, and the economy is in a downturn. Employers are complaining about having to pay a minimum wage of RM1,500. Do they think that is enough?
“We also have to pay off our student loans. People say that single people have no commitment. But we still need to support our parents who are retired,” he told FMT.
It was previously reported that a statistics department survey found that about 390,000 SPM holders, or 72.1% of the total, refused to continue their studies in 2019. The survey of 560,000 SPM holders found that only 170,000 chose to continue their studies.
More worryingly, the department said, the trend was believed to continue in 2020 and 2021.
Mohammad Aqil suggested that the government provide free skills training courses online – such as in electrical wiring, air condition installation and other maintenance services – to food delivery riders to prepare them for the tougher times ahead.
“We can attend classes two days a week instead of studying for two and a half years and ending up with a huge debt for which our salaries will not be enough to cover,” he said, adding that he currently brings home RM4,000 to RM5,000 a month.
Another food delivery rider who only wants to be known as Siti Nur Aisyah, 29, said many of her peers are concerned that their careers won’t last as they grow older.
“I chose this job because the timing is flexible and the income is better than a fixed salary,” said Siti, who plans to start a family in the near future.
“I get RM1,000 a week, or about RM4,000 a month. If I work hard, I can get more. Even if I have a diploma or a degree, I may not be able to get the same salary and enjoy flexible working hours like this,” she added.
Meanwhile, former auxiliary policeman Izwan Bujang, 29, felt that as long as they have an opportunity, SPM holders should pursue further studies to secure a brighter future.
“Many engineers and professionals choose to deliver food like us. But at least they have a certificate (education or skills) that they can use one day if this work (delivering food) is no longer relevant,” he said.
“Although this job provides a good income if we are diligent, we have to think about our future as well.
“Sometimes when there are no orders coming in, I think to myself ‘What am I doing here?’ But usually it’s alright,” he said, adding that he can earn up to RM7,000 a month.