Although many Malaysians have been on the fence about the management of COVID-19 pandemic in the country, Malaysian youths largely remain optimistic about the future. This was derived from the ASEAN Youth Survey 2021 edition by Redhill. Despite the persistent economic concerns borne from the current Covid-19 crisis -that has caused the future life plans to remain undeterred, many are still appreciative of the basic state provisions such as healthcare and education.
The survey, which is currently in its third edition, analyses the roles of Southeast Asia’s youths as key drivers of economic, cultural, and socio-political change. The study attempts to take a snapshot view of their aspirations and concerns on governance, economy, education, healthcare, life choices and online activity. The survey saw a participation of approximately 3,000 people aged 18-35 across seven ASEAN nations.
“Youths in Malaysia have been going through some of the most turbulent and uncertain periods of their lives. While 2020 was a watershed year for them, this year is when many have been adapting to the new normal – being highly aware of the challenges they face but working around them to carve a better, more certain future for themselves,” said Pranav Rastogi, Managing Director, Redhill.
Youth’s Take On Governance & Economy
Malaysian youths’ sentiment towards the government’s management of the COVID-19 pandemic has been largely ambivalent, with over 40 percent preferring to stay neutral on their thoughts. However, there is still some optimism, as there were over a third who thought more positively of the government’s efforts, compared to just over 20 percent who were dissatisfied.
This air of uncertainty can also be seen in the youths’ perceptions of representation in the country; those who were positive and neutral on opportunities for active citizenship and social advocacy were tied at 39 percent.
On opportunities for public engagement and gender inclusion, as well as their ability to engage publicly on race and minority issues, the opinions of Malaysian youths remained neutral with 42 percent and 39 percent respectively.
However, there is a greater variance between respondents at either extremity – those who thought Malaysia did well on public engagement and gender inclusion opportunities (30 percent) outweighed those who thought the opposite (28 percent). Meanwhile 34% of Malaysian youths thought the government did not fare well on public engagement on race and minority issues, as compared to the 27 percent who did.
87 percent of respondents across all the Southeast Asian countries surveyed stated that they are worried about job security. While, 70 percent of the participants commented that they have enough funds to spend on essentials now, they however remained concerned about providing for the future. Worryingly, 77 percent of the respondents even believed that – to meet their financial aspirations – they would need to take on another job.
These sentiments were also reflected in Malaysia, with such concerns tied to local macroeconomic factors. This includes the Malaysian youths’ perceptions on whether their country has implemented adequate policies for post-pandemic recovery and growth. Here, most respondents at 42 percent were on the fence about the matter, but there were those more upbeat about the situation (36 percent) compared to those with a gloomier outlook (22 percent).
On healthcare matters, most Malaysian youths believe basic healthcare provision in the country is good (54 percent) as well as the adequacy of its affordability and access (55 percent). With the basic healthcare security perceived to have been met, it is unsurprising that most local respondents also had positive remarks on the COVID-19 vaccine’s rollout, with over 70 percent thinking it as being adequate.
However, when it comes to culturally sensitive topics such as sexual health, young adults can still be seen as hesitant, with 36% of respondents staying neutral (followed by the 34 percent who were more positive on the matter). In a more positive development, there is more openness towards discussing mental health matters, as most young adults were more willing to discuss it with their trusted networks.
Education & Life Choices
Across the region, most of the respondents believe that obtaining both basic and tertiary education is easy – a trend that followed in Malaysia. In terms of whether Malaysia’s education system is highly competitive, 42 percent remained impartial on the matter as compared to the 40 percent in agreement and 18 percent that disagreed. Regardless, nearly half of the respondents believe that they are still able to handle education-related stress.
When queried about their life choices, the respondents were given a list of life pursuits to rate the degree of importance they attribute to them. In Malaysia, the highest-ranked pursuit is education (82 percent), followed by healthcare and personal development (both at 81 percent), career and family (both at 78 percent).
Conclusion of the Survey
To note, despite the ongoing challenges brought on by the pandemic, Malaysians remain optimistic about their future – 46 percent were willing to travel internationally with lockdowns easing and think that owning their own home is financially realistic (nearly 60 percent).
However, there is concern towards building their own families, with 57 percent believing it to be financially challenging.
The survey also found that Malaysians are digitally connected. Most respondents primary source of news were derived from social media, and most spend between five and ten hours a day on social media platforms.
With digital reliance increasing day by day, 72 percent of Malaysian youths believe that there should be better education and awareness conducted to help people determine news accuracy. This is worrying as 44 percent of respondents are uncertain if national regulations are effective in curbing fake news.
Redhill’s ASEAN Youth Survey 2021 report will be released on 27 December 2021 and can be downloaded at www.aseanyouthsurvey.com.