Coronavirus: Malaysia unveils S$11.4b stimulus package amid rising unemployment

The package is aimed largely at checking unemployment, which has hit a 10-year high.
The package is aimed largely at checking unemployment, which has hit a 10-year high.PHOTO: REUTERS

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia has launched a fourth economic stimulus package valued at RM35 billion (S$11.4 billion), aimed largely at checking unemployment, which has hit a 10-year high.

Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said on Friday (June 5) that the plan includes RM10 billion in direct fiscal injection, of which half will be spent on extending existing wage subsidies from three months to six months.

Another RM4 billion will be allocated to benefit workers, including for upskilling programmes and to improve the welfare of freelancers.

"The economy will take time to recover and there will be those who will still need assistance during this period. The government has allocated nearly RM9 billion that will benefit as many as three million workers," he said in a speech that was broadcast nationally on television and social media channels.

However, under this new plan, the amount of wage subsidy that can be claimed is capped at RM600 monthly, for up to 200 employees per company.

Previously, smaller firms with up to 75 workers were able to claim up to RM1,200 a month for April to June.

The government has put aside RM2 billion to fund upskilling of jobless and young Malaysians, a move which is expected to benefit 200,000 people.

It also wants to spur firms to take on more employees by paying out RM800 monthly for each new hire under the age of 40, and RM1000 per month for those who are older or with disabilities. The government expects to spend RM1.5 billion to help 300,000 people find new jobs this way.

Prior to this new “national economic recovery plan” dubbed Penjana, the government had already rolled out RM260 billion in rescue packages to cushion the economic blow of the coronavirus pandemic, with RM35 billion coming directly from the Treasury. 

 
 
 
 

Tan Sri Muhyiddin said these programmes have saved 2.4 million jobs, eased the cashflow of 11 million people and supported over 300,000 companies.

But the premier added that a recession is still expected this year, with unemployment set to hit 5.5 per cent. 

Over 600,000 were already jobless in March, leaving the country with an unemployment rate of 3.9 per cent, the highest since June 2010.

According to Mr Muhyiddin, 83.5 per cent of the labour force are now back at work, compared to just 67.2 per cent last month when Malaysia first eased curbs under its movement control order that began on March 18.