Sunday, January 09, 2011

Volume 3 Issue 2: Two-Cent Economics

The Entitlement Attitude - Part 1

This is easily one of the biggest problems that Malaysia is facing at the moment. Many Malaysian fresh graduates have this problem of believing that they are entitled to all sorts of privileges just because they graduated college. It is their thinking that just because they have graduated with degrees from their universities and colleges, the society owes them a high-paying, comfortable job with unlimited benefits.

What do I mean? Doesn't everyone in this world (or almost) want those things? That may be true, but wanting them and deserving them are two completely different notions.

Why do they feel this way? Why is it that just because these graduates believe that the companies that hire them need to give them a comfortable 9-5 job and pay them an exorbitant amount, while at the same time want all the benefits like free medical, free dental, 30 days of annual leave etc.?

Let us just take a step back and try to look at this from a broader perspective. Imagine for a moment that you own a business. Now, imagine that you are recruiting for your firm. Would you hire someone with the expectations that I mentioned above? Would you hire people who look for all the benefits for themselves before they are interested in contributing to the company? The questions were rhetorical. Most normal people would resoundingly reply NO!

Now, back to the question, why do Malaysian fresh graduates feel this way? Why do they feel that they are entitled to so much before they can even contribute anything meaningful? I argue that this is a sickness that the Malaysian culture has developed due to many years of uncompetitive protectionism. What do I mean?

First and foremost, because of the protection that the government grants to a particular group of people, there is very little incentive for that group to perform. Needless to say, they do not become competitive and continue to lead complacent lifestyles and blame the government when things do not go their way. This is the most uncompetitive group among Malaysians.

Secondly, because of the above-mentioned group of poor competitors, the playing in Malaysia has been made infinitely easier. To achieve something "worthy" of reward was made infinitely easier because the next best alternative to these fresh graduates is just some dude who does not hunger for the available jobs. So, because of this, these fresh graduates feel like they are on top of the world because they have no viable competition. While it may be true that there are other fresh graduates out there, the present situation shows that there is a much larger supply of skilled-jobs available compared with the number of applicants. While this plays into the hands of the applicants, it still does not mean that the fresh graduates have the right to make exorbitant demands on their employers.

In the Malaysian context, these fresh graduates may feel like they are the cream of the crop. One only needs to step across any of our borders to our neighboring countries to realize how far apart the standard of fresh graduates in Malaysia is compared with those in our neighboring countries.

Not only are they more qualified and better trained, they demand less wages and benefits! If this poor entitlement attitude does not change, it would only be a matter of time before all the multi-nationals take the job offers elsewhere. From  anecdotal evidence, a fresh graduate from Vietnam is typically paid USD200 per month. This is in contrast to the RM2,500 (USD800) that is paid to half-baked Malaysian fresh graduates. This is not including the fact that Vietnam has a population of almost 200 million. They have a much larger supply of skilled labor.

Why should any MNC remain in Malaysia? Labor is no longer cheap here. If fresh graduates continue to believe that they have the right to demand comfort and special benefits before contributing meaningfully to their employers, they should remember that it is just with a snap of fingers that their jobs could disappear.

Let me just pause here and allow all of you to ponder a little bit on what you think you deserve. The next time you complain about how your company does not take care of its employees, please take a hard, long, and brutally honest look at your own work and ask yourself, if you were the owner of the firm, what kind of benefits and wages would you pay yourself? What would you, as the owner would like to see from an employee of your firm before you give them a promotion and a raise?

In the next issue of the Main Streeter, we will explore this issue of the entitlement attitude a little bit further and see what other lessons we can draw. In the mean time, all comments and feedback are welcome.

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