Malaysian youth are cautiously optimistic about the nation’s recovery from Covid-19

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The ASEAN Youth Survey 2020 edition has revealed that Malaysian youth are warily optimistic about the nation’s longer-term recovery. 

Based on the survey by Redhill, Malaysian youth believe their government is taking the right steps towards the Covid-19 healthcare response, yet they remain highly concerned about the management of the economy and social issues during the pandemic.

The survey has analysed the roles of Southeast Asia’s youth as key drivers of economic, cultural, social, and political change. It explored the youth’s aspirations and concerns on governance, the economy, education, life choices, and media consumption – all through the lens of more than 2,000 youths aged 18-35 across eight ASEAN member nations. 

“Like the rest of their regional counterparts, Malaysian youth experienced some of the most challenging periods of their lives during 2020. Understandably, many of them are now concerned about their situation as the nation is still reeling from the Covid-19 crisis. 

However, their positive outlook towards the future national economy means that the shorter-term governance and economic challenges – large as they may be – can still be overcome,” Jacob Puthenparambil, CEO of Redhill said. 

Some of the findings of the survey are as below:

Governance & Economy 

Nearly 40 percent of Malaysian youths are optimistic that the country’s economy will recover in 2021. Meanwhile, a third (33 percent) believe it will remain the same as this year and 27 percent believe it will get worse. 

The survey also highlighted that while just 16 percent of the respondents are worried about the national economy, only 27 percent believe that the government is managing it well during the pandemic – a rate lower than Indonesia, where 34 percent are happy with their Government’s economic response measures.  

Malaysia’s management of social issues throughout Covid-19 also scored low as just a quarter of Malaysian respondents (25 percent) believe the government is doing a good job. 

When compared to the other countries surveyed, the approval rate for Malaysia’s social issues response sits lower than Indonesia and Thailand (both 26 percent) but ahead of the Philippines (16 percent), Myanmar (13 percent), and Cambodia (2 percent). 

Education & Life Choices 

Nearly 90 percent of Malaysian respondents believe that their education system should be making greater use of technology, particularly as many youths had to adapt to social distancing and remote learning this year. 

This correlates with 98 percent of all ASEAN respondents who share the same view. The survey also highlighted that despite the international movement limitations experienced throughout 2020 and ongoing Covid-19 spreads in other countries, 80 percent of Malaysian youths aged 18-24 would still like to pursue their higher education overseas. 

Remote working has been a defining theme of the pandemic, and so respondents were asked if they felt that they could achieve their desired work-life balance. In Malaysia, 12 percent of respondents believe they were able to comfortably balance their professional and personal lives, while 43 percent achieved balance to some degree. 

In comparison, a third (33 percent) were ambivalent on whether they could achieve that balance while 12 percent reported that they could not do so. Similar trends can be seen regionally, with 16 percent of all ASEAN respondents strongly believing they enjoy a good work-life balance and 38 percent noting they achieved it at some level. 

Media Consumption 

As Covid-19 has increased people’s reliance on technology and digital tools to communicate with each other, ASEAN leaders have made it a priority to combat the spread of fake news, especially when sharing information related to the pandemic. 

When asked about their ability to determine the accuracy of the news, 27 percent of Malaysian respondents are confident that they could do so while 44 percent believe they could do it to a lesser degree. 

In contrast, 30 percent of all ASEAN respondents are certain that they can distinguish between real and fake news. Meanwhile, 43 percent believe that they can do so, albeit with less confidence. 

Youths in Malaysia are concerned with their government’s efforts to curb the spread of fake news, with only a 33 percent approval rating compared to 38 percent who are neutral on the matter and 28 percent who believe it to be poor. 

Malaysia’s approval rating mirrors the survey’s findings at the regional level – as seen in Indonesia (40 percent), Thailand (25 percent), the Philippines (19 percent), and Cambodia (19 percent). Only Singapore (63 percent), Vietnam (60 percent), and Myanmar (91 percent) scored highly. 

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