Ministry of Human Resources under the purview of Minister YB Kula Segaran must declare whether the welfare and rights of the future workforce is a priority in the nation’s reform agenda championed by the Pakatan Harapan government. The future workforce comprise of, but not limited to fresh graduates, teenagers, and women – of all races, religions, and background – entering with the hope of igniting or improving their career.

We note the Ministry has stated that no final decision has been made on whether to include or remove protection for job seekers in the Employment Act as they are waiting for Cabinet to make the decision. We urge all cabinet ministers to support protecting job seekers from discrimination.

The PH government entrusted by the people has an uncompromising responsibility that an equal and non-discriminatory employment opportunities are created to cater the burgeoning rate of unemployment and underemployment in Malaysia.

Excluding job seekers from the proposed anti-discrimination provisions leaves them vulnerable to arbitrary discriminatory practices by employers. The exclusion of job seekers from this provision would condone unwarranted discriminations – primarily on the grounds of ethnicity, language, religion, gender and disability.

Pusat KOMAS has also recorded instances where numerous job seekers have been denied job interviews due to their ethnic origins. Additionally, job advertisements preferring specific ethnic groups by employers were also reported and featured in our annual Malaysia Racial Discrimination Report (2018). These accounts of racial discriminations in the preliminary stages towards employment were proven to be digressing our path to build an inclusive society that promotes unity in diversity.

One common argument against protecting job seekers from discrimination under the Employment Act is that the Act only covers employees and employers, and not job seekers. This argument, however, has been refuted by many lawyers including former Malaysian Bar president Ragunath Kesavan. He stressed that such protection for job seekers is both “reasonable” and essential, and further highlighted that there is no barrier to prohibiting discrimination during recruitment. There have also been suggestions to instead introduce a separate pre-employment act. However, this is unnecessary as the Employment Act can be amended to cover the pre-employment phase.

Protecting job seekers from discrimination is in line with the spirit of Pakatan Harapan’s manifesto. One of Pakatan Harapan’s promises is to form the Commission of Fair Employment Opportunities (Suruhanjaya Peluang Pekerjaan Saksama). The Commission is meant to address discriminatory recruitment practices among employers in the public and private sectors. The manifesto also clearly states that all Malaysian would be given equal employment opportunities regardless of their ethnicities. By removing job seekers from the proposed anti-discrimination provision in the Employment Act, the government is departing from the spirit of its manifesto. 

Therefore, we strictly remind the government to weigh in the importance of including job seekers within the law instead of packaging it merely as toothless guidelines.

This statement is endorsed by:

  1. Agora Society
  2. Aliran
  3. All Women’s Action Society (AWAM)
  4. Angkatan Belia Islam Malaysia (ABIM)
  5. Beyond Borders Malaysia
  6. Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ)
  7. Childline Foundation
  8. Demokrat UM
  9. Foreign Spouse Support Group (FSSG)
  10. Gabungan Pembebasan Akademik IPT
  11. Galen Centre for Health & Social Policy
  12. Ikatan Mahasiswa USM
  13. Islamic Renaissance Front (IRF)
  14. Jaringan Orang Asal SeMalaysia (JOAS)
  15. Komuniti Muslim Universal (KMU)
  16. Mahasiswa Keadilan Malaysia
  17. Malaysia Muda
  18. Malaysian Action for Justice and Unity Foundation (MAJU)
  19. My PJ
  20. Parti Sosialis Malaysia
  21. Pergerakan Tenaga Akademik Malaysia (GERAK)
  22. Persatuan Sahabat Wanita Selangor (PSWS)
  23. Pertubuhan Ikram Malaysia (IKRAM)
  24. Pusat KOMAS
  25. Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia (SABM)
  26. SCRIPS
  27. SEPA
  28. Students Unity Front, UKM
  29. Student Progressive Front UUM
  30. Suaram
  31. The Society for the Promotion of Human Rights (Proham)
  32. Toy Libraries Malaysia
  33. University Malay Association of New Youth (UMANY)
  35. Women Aid Organisation (WAO)