The issue of a lack of financial literacy among the Malaysian youth has plagued the nation for many years and it has resulted in the disempowerment of disenfranchisement of the next generation, the effects of which disproportionately affecting the most vulnerable—dangerously inhibiting the ability of the youth particularly from underprivileged communities from being able to improve their socioeconomic situation.
This unfortunately perpetuates generational wealth disparities, exacerbates youth poverty and has the potential to cause great economic stagnation for the future as a substantial substrate of the coming workforce is hindered by financial challenges and obstructions which then prevents them from being as able to contribute meaningfully to the economy of the country.
Surveys by the Securities Commission Malaysia have indicated that Malaysian youths exhaust important savings in clearing financial debt as opposed to developing wealth through strategic investments. There have also been reports from such centres as the UCSI Research Poll and the Federation of Malaysian Consumers Association that reveal the susceptibility of the youth to poor spending habits and bankruptcy.
The sheer gravity of the situation is worrisome and many Malaysians have called for the government to place a greater attention and emphasis towards policy prescriptions that cull illiteracy among the youth through financial education schemes. Though a comprehensive implementation of such schemes may require a lot of time.
Among other things, the government could explore ways in which it could collaborate with organizations dedicated to improve financial literacy programmes that could serve as curricular activities for students to participate in as this could be implemented with greater speed and efficiency.
One such organization that has aspired to improving such an awareness in this area is Financial Literacy Youths: Malaysia (FLY). A non-government organization, spearheaded by the youth, FLY has established itself as a prominent advocate of financial literacy through various means. The organization has committed to the creation of programmes that touch on a multitude of areas in finance and economics designed to be practically accessed by youths.
These programmes allow for the consumption of digestible resources that provide the necessary exposure for the youth to grasp the multi-layered complexities of the world of finance. FLY Malaysia has also established initiatives to create freely accessible events that host leading economic and financial industry experts that shed light on important issues and nuances.
These programmes also provide crucial insights into Malaysian industries and the workplace, equipping youth participants with relevant skills desired by employers which in turn elevates their employability. This educational conditioning better insulates the youth, particularly from underprivileged communities, against the constraints suffered by them—redirecting their trajectories towards sustainable financial lifestyles. This much needed disruption would be instrumental in immediately orienting the youth in a way that effectively empowers them.
The government could consider how it could galvanize cooperation with established organizations such as FLY and other NGO’s to develop education schemes that could be accessed by the youth. Such joint-cooperation could see the further incentivized creation and promotion of financial literacy clubs and societies in schools, colleges and universities by the youth as their combined efforts assures them that they would have the guidance and resources necessary to create such societies which in turn not only heightens financial awareness but actively encourages students to explore such initiatives among themselves—inspiring an interest in financial literacy.
Such a collaboration could also see the establishing of financial awareness workshops conducted in schools, colleges and universities that provide the youth supplemental materials on a panoply of finance-related issues. FLY Malaysia assumes an important position in Malaysian youth communities and if it were to be further supported, the extent by which it could enhance its initiatives could increase exponentially.
Government endorsements of such organizations like FLY Malaysia increases the NGO’s visibility to the youth as it legitimizes their efforts which in turn ensures that more youth may be aware of its programmes. This allows for a progressive paradigm shift to be realized in Malaysian youth communities—one that inspires more youth to take interest in finance-related issues which ensures the maturation of youth consciousness on the issue.
While challenges are nevertheless present, a strategic effort in emboldening cooperation with organizations such as FLY Malaysia will ensure that the gaps in policy-making that cause the issue of a lack of financial literacy among the youth to suffer from significant stagnation will be addressed via a holistic and comprehensive effort to reach Malaysian youth—efficiently empowering them. Supporting the efforts of NGOs like FLY that are relentlessly tackling the issue is a necessary step towards improving financial awareness among the youth given the degree of coordination in takes to make such improvements in all areas where the Malaysian youth are.
By Sunway University Student Researcher Pravin Periasamy