A Successful Failure
Our Experience in Providing Job Referrals to B40 Families
As the uncertainty of 2020 looms on, the GG team continues to try new ways to provide meaningful assistance to low-income families impacted by COVID-19. However things don't often work out the way we hope they would.
From a needs assessment conducted in May, many families cited unemployment as their top concern. After the Movement Control Order (MCO) was lifted in June, GG stopped providing families with food and cash aid. Instead, we launched Peluang Kerjaya to help those who had lost their jobs to regain employment.
We started with a target of 30 candidates from one community, with the goal of seeing them successfully employed for at least 3 months. Projek Kerjaya would be the platform where we to source and refer families to employment opportunities available. Our applicants were between 30-45 years old, and majority were main breadwinners of the family.
Did Peluang Kerjaya Work?
Of the 30 candidates, only 15 successfully found jobs. And of the 15 candidates, only 1 candidate gained employment through GG’s referral initiatives.
Infographic of Candidates
As the GG team looked back, this is what we learnt:
#1 Were There Enough Jobs Available?
Yes! Thanks to word of mouth and social media platforms, the number of jobs we received in a short amount of time was promising. By the end of 3 months, our team had collected 128 job opportunities in our referral list. These were full-time and part-time jobs offering fixed monthly salaries with EPF and SOCSO benefits. The employers we reached out to were willing to take on candidates with lower qualifications because the right attitude was more desirable to them. Some were even ready to offer free coffee or early attendance allowances. Some employers were also keen on providing transportation like a motorcycle to relieve some financial burden off the candidates.
Stable jobs are available, employers are open. However, our pool of candidates were not applying for these jobs. Why?
#2 Expectations Of Employment: Where Is The Gap?
Over the project period between July to September 2020, we learnt important perspectives of what our candidates were looking for in employment opportunities.
Picture credits: Luke Ow @ Unsplash.com
a. Familiarity Mindset
Many wanted jobs they have done before – logistic drivers, general handyman. They were not readily adaptable to do something new even if it was immediately available. In spite of our reassurances, some of our candidates didn’t go for interviews simply because they were convinced their low education backgrounds would be a barrier.
Another important consideration is the distance from their home. The jobs we sourced were generally within 12km from the community and/or accessible via public transportation. However many are not keen to take jobs that require long travelling via public transportation. Many do not own their own transport. They wanted jobs that were within walking distance to their homes.
b. Resourcefulness Reduces Urgency
Our team also learnt that B40 families can be independently resourceful for their daily needs. They are able to earn small amounts by doing odd jobs. Some are able to find short-term aid from NGO’s, welfare offices or religious organisations to make ends meet.
Although these sources are unreliable and unpredictable, they are willing to adapt their lifestyle to this form of arrangement. This willingness to live with less also means they are more selective with employment opportunities.
c. What They Really, Really Want - Flexibility
GG started off by referring stable-income (fixed monthly salaries) work with social protection benefits, namely SOCSO and EPF, to our candidates. But what they really wanted was readily available gig jobs instead of full-time positions. Working part-time or temporary positions gave them greater flexibility and freedom. This could be due to family commitments like caring for young children or sick family members. They also wanted daily-wage jobs instead of those that pay out once a month.
For quick wins, we began sourcing jobs that are readily available for them instead of formal jobs that require a longer screening process such as a write-in application or interview process. The downside of these types of jobs is the low pay, due to low productivity. This results in workers not earning enough to cover expenses or having excess for savings. They are also provided with very little social protection benefits, if any. By remaining in jobs like these, our families remain vulnerable in the event of another lockdown.
GG & Flexiroam staff with part-timers from the community
What Has Worked?
Towards the end of our project period, an opportunity opened that enabled us to put some of these learnings into practice with a company who was keen to provide jobs to our families.
Based on our learnings, Flexiroam Sdn Bhd designed terms of employment that addressed the expectations and challenges of low-income job seekers. By rethinking terms of employment, this has resulted in 14 new candidates from our target community actively working and earning an income.
KEY TERM #1 Fast Work The packing job only required a few hours a day with no specific prior experience or skillsets. There was no interview needed. Job seekers were only required to provide basic personal information for identification purposes. Sign-up was on a “first-come-first-served” basis everyday via WhatsApp.
KEY TERM #2 Transportation Provided Flexiroam arranged vans to ferry workers to their warehouse and back to the community daily when packing services were needed.
KEY TERM #3 Payment Cycle to Align with Needs Workers are paid twice a week. They are able to access their pay sooner for their daily necessities.
Picture credits: Nattu Adnan @ Unsplash.com
As We Draw To A Close
Through this initiative, we recognized that there is no short-term fix for unemployment amongst the B40 community. Overcoming low self-esteem, upskilling or even encouraging people to venture into new things requires long-term initiatives to truly see adult workers break the poverty cycle.
If success was defined by the objectives of the project, this project was a successful failure. Despite not reaching our initial targets, the learnings were invaluable to us that we hope this sharing will be useful for other NGOs and organisations who are looking into this area of work for B40 communities.
Our goal was a quick response post-MCO for families who were unable to go back to their original jobs. We are relieved to know that many families in the community are currently able to independently find sources of income. Peluang Kerjaya came to a close in October 2020.
We want to acknowledge the many individuals, organisations and corporates that joined in to make this possible. Without the trust & support given, we would not have had the chance to venture down the route of trying to secure employment for the communities. While not everything worked out the way we hoped, we must still have the courage to try.
Generasi Gemilang will continue our work in bridging the education gap amongst children. COVID-19 has accelerated inequalities, and the closure of schools throughout the year will have long-lasting implications on the children’s learning progress. Read more about what we are currently doing to ensure children are still learning in this time HERE and HERE.
In summary, our recommendations for anyone exploring job referral initiatives to help B40 families:
#1 Food aid is not the most necessary at this point. Jobs are available.
#2 Fixed income and benefits are not a key factor in job appeal. Job seekers prefer flexibility and convenience.
#3 Gig-jobs are the best.