(Picture courtesy of Vir.com.vn)

The high unemployment rate in the country is troublesome for state and society.

To overcome this issue, the newly established Manpower Planning and Employment Council (MPEC) should consider introducing Occupational Licensing (OL) for vocational jobs in Brunei’s labor market. Aspiring workers should have completed state-specific educational, training, testing and other requirements to practice in a licensed profession. IBTE and Politekik Brunei can serve as avenues to get OL.

Professions to be licensed include nurses, air-condition repairers, security guards, truck drivers, forklift operators, electricians, welders, plumbers, vehicle technicians, and many more. Those without OL should not be allowed to operate in these professions.

For one, OL helps protect vulnerable Bruneian labor from intense competition and exploitation, as well as to promote HSE standards.

OL can serve as our Industrial Policy needed to nurture and grow our local labor market. When South Korea wanted to build up its labor market in the 60s, it implemented various labor policies. Within several decades, they transformed their workforce from a nation of farmers to one capable to meet the demands of a modern industrial power.

When our laborers are protected, they will also be able to make a decent living. In Australia, full-time plumbers earn on average AUS$1,894 per week (Joboutlook.gov.au). Some plumbers even make more money than lawyers (news.com.au). On this note, OL can also raise the status of vocational jobs.

There may be studies from other advanced countries arguing against it, claiming it will lead to increased prices, etc. This is true, but we must consider that the money spent locally will re-circulate within the economy. Plus, the advanced countries can afford to minimize OL because their labor markets have already reached maturity, unlike here in Brunei. For example, in the US one-quarter of their labor currently holds OL. Economic context matters.

Our local labor should get priority when it comes to securing meaningful work and make a decent living in our country. If we act now, the unemployment levels can be brought down while the billions spent on training and educating our young people in the vocational route will bring in dividends in no time.

Abdul Malik Omar

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