“Power should be returned to the people. That means opening up more democratic spaces, which means more young people can join and speak up.”
Getting the voice of young people head in the nation-building process is one reason why Malaysia is looking to reduce the voting age from 21 to 18, said Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman.
The Malaysian government plans to ask the Attorney General’s office to look into what laws need to be amended to reduce the voting age.
Mr Syed Siddiq said that Malaysian prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad is very serious about the issue.
He added that young people also need to have their concerns heard about “cost of living, affordable housing, good employment opportunities, and quality of life”.
“That means the youth voter block becomes bigger and stronger, and therefore, they cannot be side-lined in the Malaysian political scene anymore.”
In Singapore, however, the government is keen to conscript young males from the age of 16 but refuses to accord them voting rights.
Or as Mr Syed Siddiq described, giving them a “voice in the nation-building process”, even as they train to kill for the country.
Despite all the fanfare about NS30 as a “celebration” of national servicemen, most Singaporean males can only vote at the age of 21 – after they have completed 2 years of national service.
Singaporean youth have been facing a period of social malaise, with unemployment rising sharply among the higher-educated and blue-collar workers facing job displacement from low-cost foreign competition.
Only 78.4 per cent of graduates last year managed to secure full-time permanent employment 6 months after their final examinations – the lowest figure in 10 years.
The full-time permanent employment rate for those who took private degrees fell drastically to 47.4 per cent last year.
Severe concerns loom over the degree of under-employment of young workers.
Under-employment occurs when young talents are employed for lowly-paid temporary jobs that are below their skillset, and is harder to measure on general employment surveys.