By DENIELLE LEONG
ASK yourself honestly – would you rather stand behind the counter at a fast-food joint, or start your own online business? What about working as a retail assistant? Would you take that over being a paid blogger?
Well, if you’re a young Malaysian, chances are you wouldn’t have chosen the “traditional” part-time jobs. Doing jobs like waiting tables and manning the cash register over the school holidays (or even during school) used to be part of growing up. Not so much these days.
According to Malaysian Employers Federation executive director Shamsuddin Bardan, young Malaysians are losing part-time jobs to willing foreigners because they find such jobs “demeaning”.
“Students now are just not interested (in part-time jobs). They’re not comfortable with the idea of it because they think it’s only for people who need to supplement their income.
“As our lifestyles improve, parents become more able to provide for their children, so the need for part-time jobs is less,” he said.
Problem is, part-time jobs are probably exactly what privileged millenials need right now. Money isn’t the main objective of getting a part-time job anyway, said Shamsuddin. What’s important is the discipline and people skills you develop.
“Those are things you can’t teach in a classroom. Part-time jobs prepare you for work in the real world,” he said.
Alma Othman, general manager of human resource solutions company Adecco, added that the lack of young part-timers has created what she calls a “talent gap”.
“A lot of graduates don’t want to work entry level jobs like those in retail or F&B outlets, so we need part-timers to fill those gaps,” said Alma.
Aside from that, career consultant Sheela Chandran feels parents are mollycoddling their children these days because they feel bad for being absent most of the time.
But even though they’re more protected than before, that hasn’t stopped the younger generation from dreaming big.
Sheela said: “People of Generation Y are more outgoing and bold with their ambition. That’s why they don’t do part-time jobs. They’d much rather do their own thing.”
Esther Wong, for example, chose the Gen-Y route of starting her own online business. Wong sells her handmade fashion accessories through her blog site, MiniBites (http://minibitesonline.blogspot.com).
“I can do things at my own pace when I work for myself. However, I also have to constantly come up with ways to upkeep and improve my business,” said the 20-year-old.
Zafran Aqil, on the other hand, chose to work as a part-time retail assistant in Bangsar Village II to fund his trips to Singapore and Bali for his yo-yo tournaments. Three months later, he left the job because he felt overworked and underpaid.
“I was only a retail assistant but my workload was beyond the job scope. I was doing almost everything, and yet I wasn’t offered the proportional incentive for the additional tasks,” the 19-year-old college student explained.
Zafran was also restricted from voicing his opinions at the store, although he was assured an open working environment when he first started.
“My boss would shut me off whenever I suggested anything to her. She wouldn’t even let me finish my sentence,” he added. “I think you have to know your rights, and you can’t just let anyone step on you.”
Zafran has just applied for the same position in another retail store and hopes to get a better balanced workload.
Unlike Zafran, Asyraf Ahmad had a much better experience working as a part-time barista at Starbucks when he was in Form Six.
Even though his STPM results weren’t that great, Asyraf, now 21, still believes the experience benefited him tremendously.
“It’s not that I wasn’t interested in my studies. I just wanted to challenge myself. Working part-time taught me how I should approach people, and I apply these lessons into my daily life now,” he said.
Asyraf is now taking a break from his studies and working as a full-time retail associate at Uniqlo.
He’ll be resuming his studies in September, but he’s not sure if he’ll continue working part-time when classes commence.
“I think I want to focus on my studies this time, so I’m not sure if I want to work,” he said.
Shamsuddin admits many young people now would rather go down the self-employment or entrepreneurial route than stand behind a fast-food counter. His advice – why not do both?
“Young people have to realise that entrepreneurship and part-time jobs are different. You need to experience both,” he said. “Employers still appreciate job applicants who have had part-time experience.”
Most of these valuable experiences are now going to foreigners. Shamsuddin believes many of them come to Malaysia on student visas, though their real purpose is employment.
Another thing stopping young Malaysians from taking up part-time jobs is that they don’t know what their rights are, so many of them end up getting taken advantage of by their employers. For example: how many students out there would know there’s an RM4.33 per hour minimum wage for part-timers?
“Legally, once you are employed, all labour laws apply – EPF, Socso, and so on. Unfortunately, not a lot of part-timers realise that, and many employers don’t implement it.
“With Socso, for example, if a part-time employee is injured on the way to work, he or she can be entitled to temporary disablement benefits. That’s 80% of their wages paid to them for the period they are on medical leave,” said Shamsuddin.
Are young people less likely to take part-time jobs these days? And is it really a problem? Tell us what you think by tweeting us @thestar_rage (#RAGEchat).
Weighing its worth
PART time jobs aren’t just about the money. Before you start whining about the “hardship” that comes with the responsibility, take a good look at the plus points that come it – and its share of the bad too.
As most teens are generally sheltered from the “real world” – though they may beg to differ – these jobs can give them a rough idea of how organisations work while exposing them to people of various walks of life and how (well or terribly) they can behave.
“People are going to try to bully you and that’s when you learn how to deal with these situations,” said career consultant Sheela Chandran.
Conversely, those without such experience may be in for a culture shock when they start working.
The added value
General manager Alma Othman believes that these jobs can instill a handful of values and skills too.
“Though part time jobs may consist of simple tasks, it allows you to practise discipline, time management and communication skills,” she stated.
According to Alma, communication skills and the right attitude are the bare necessities for fresh graduates who are trying to impress potential employers.
Sheela, who has conducted a great deal of interviews, explained:
“As fresh graduates don’t have any actual work background, we look for life experiences instead. We want to see co-curricular activities, leadership roles, community service and such.
“So I would put a part timer ahead of those with their own businesses because I know that they’ve gone out and interacted with people. Plus, they are also coming with a wider perspective of the ‘real world’.”
While you’re making just RM5 an hour at a fast food chain, your friend could easily be making twice as much through his online business with half the effort.
Every hour you spend could have been used on studying, hanging out with your friends or even nothing at all. Some may argue that it’s a more productive way to spend your weekend, but really, give us a break!
Poor academic performance
In 2011, the American Bureau Labor of Statistics ran a study which found students spending “49 minutes less on homework on the days they worked”.
As a result, their grades could drop from A- to C-.
So if you struggle with time management, maintaining your grades can be a challenge.
Managers can be mean. They can also overwork (or bully) you, whether intentional or not. Asyraf Ahmad, a full time retail associate at a branded store, says that more is expected out of part-timers as they work shorter hours. But it is mostly subjective, and if you look at it from a positive light, it’s pretty much how the ‘real world’ looks – ugly.