The recently revised poverty line by the Malaysian government has shown an increase of households from 17,000 to 405,000 that falls under the Absolute Poverty bracket (DOS 2020, Khazanah Research Institute calculations). Set against the backdrop of COVID-19 which has detrimentally affected global economies, livelihoods are at stakes and the B40 communities especially are pushed further to the edge.
There is a recent trend amongst many NGOs focusing on capacity building and self-empowerment programmes by promoting self-employment as a livelihood option. While being self-sustainable is a logical approach, especially in the time of crisis where companies are downsizing and jobs are scarce, the reality on the ground, however, is more complicated.
“There are more and more people moving into self-employment as opposed to doing former employee type of work (paid employment). From a poverty and inequality standpoint, this is a concern because the current social protection system favours paid-employment which gives you access to safety nets such as SOCSO and EPF, but not to those who are self-employed.”, Chris Choon of Khazanah Research Institute shared his insights on what it means to be self-employed in Malaysia.
Talking at the 17# Ilmu Hasanah programme organised by MATCH & Yayasan Hasanah (Hasanah), Chris was joined by Samantha Ong from People Systems Consultancy and two other partners of Hasanah, Onn Sein from Yayasan Kebajikan Pembangunan Masyarakat, and Anne Lasimbang of PACOS Trust. Moderated by Shareen Shariza of Yayasan Sejahtera & MATCH Hub, about 100 participants from across Malaysia joined the discussion.
Watch the full discussion here:
Jobs within the informal sector are removed from social protections therefore difficult time leads to desperate measures for some people. Onn Sein shared the struggle he saw with the Jakun community in the interiors of Pahang where he works with them on organic farming as a way to become self-sustainable. “The people are living in the margins and challenging times had forced them to sell their personal belongings for cash. When the Movement Control Order was enforced, the supply chain came to a halt, and so did the community’s income.” lamented Onn Sein.
Lack of access to infrastructure is also one of the difficulties, especially for those located in rural areas. Anne Lasimbang works with about 150 villages in Sabah, focusing on developing products using resources around them but their remote locations make it difficult to reach their market.
Despite the underlying challenges faced by B40 communities, the speakers agreed that programmes focused on capacity building and empowerment are still important towards a sustainable livelihood. Samantha Ong added, “Among the marginalised communities, there are few opportunities for paid-employment; therefore, getting them to start their own businesses is an alternative solution to earn a living.
The speakers also highlighted the importance of collaborative partnerships to scale up the impact on the ground. Collaboration between NGOs, corporate organisations and government agencies is vital to improving the lives of marginalised communities.
About Ilmu Hasanah: Anchored by Hasanah’s Knowledge Impact Area, an ILMU Hasanah is a knowledge event where Hasanah provides a platform to cross-share information and knowledge within the social sector. All ILMU Hasanah events are free and open to the public.
About Match Hub: KitaMATCH is a coordination platform that brings Humanitarian/civil society organisations, NGOs, Private Sector and Government agencies in responding to humanitarian crises. The platform provides information on aid delivery and needs of vulnerable communities impacted by the Covid-19 crisis. This acts as a basis for coordination at a national level with multiple stakeholders to be effectively managed and executed. It will bring together an ecosystem of social sector partners such as NGOs and social enterprises, private sector donor partners as well as public sector organisations, to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of aid response at the national level.