By Dr. Mohd Shahidan Shaari
THE number of daily cases had dropped markedly in Malaysia before it reached pandemic proportions again in October 2020. The global pandemic has been a pain in the backside for all people in Malaysia and other countries.
Despite the severe penalty and warning from the government, some people still flout the standard operating procedures (SOPs) and take their lives for granted. This suggests that the penalty still does not act as a deterrent to them.
Therefore, it merits more serious attention before it gets out of hand. During this pandemic, people still point their fingers at each other. However, doing so will not alleviate the problem but add fuel to the resentment against each other. Presently, we are caught between the deep blue sea and the devil.
Allowing all economic sectors to be open may put all people’s lives at risk. More deaths will loom on the horizon. However, imposing a total lockdown will be detrimental to Malaysia’s economy. Some people might not be aware of the deleterious impacts of economic recession in the aftermath of placing the country on lockdown.
Many studies have shown that child maltreatment may stem from economic recession. Unemployment is on the rise. A lot of workers are laid off because many firms are not well-positioned to weather the storm.
The stress of losing their jobs will lead them to vent it on their children. A study conducted in the United States focusing on the impact of the unemployment rate on child maltreatment from 2004 to 2012 showed that a 1% increase in unemployment caused child neglect to increase by 20%.
In addition, child neglect in the United States rose again due to higher unemployment subsequent to the financial crisis in 2008. Children’s mental development might be affected if they are abused or neglected. They are also prone to perpetrate bullying to attract attention.
A wide array of studies has shown that higher unemployment can contribute to higher crime. A study performed in Malaysia has found a positive relationship between unemployment and crime considering sample data ranging from 1970 to 2006.
Unemployment might increase property crime rather than violent crime. When people lose their jobs, they will have no income to put food on the table and pay their rents. They have no choice but to borrow money and their standard of living drops. The poverty rate will increase. Being cyclically unemployed during an economic recession poses a great challenge, and it is hard to swallow.
Thus, it will put them under mental stress. Hence, some people resort to committing crimes, such as burglaries and robberies. This may unfavourably impact tourism and foreign direct investment. Some studies have elucidated that tourists are deterred from visiting countries with high crime.
Massive layoffs can also have a detrimental effect on health. Hence, unemployed individuals will experience deep stress. They will suffer from other health problems, such as headaches, high blood pressure, heart disease, etc. This will result in the government increasing its expenditure on health to treat them. Studies have shown that unemployment can cause them to suffer from depression.
They are also likely to experience anxiety. In comparison with employed people, unemployed people are two times more likely to suffer from mental health. That is the reason why some of them will commit suicide. Turning a blind eye to this matter might affect life expectancy. Life expectancy, which refers to the average period that a person may expect to live, will drop.
It is challenging for the government to formulate the right policies because the pandemic has placed it in the predicament of choosing between the deep blue sea and the devil. At the same time, it has all the cares of the world on its shoulders. The government is presently struggling to weigh up the pros and cons of the two options so that everything will fall into place.
When considering financial aid to those who are affected, the government should also take the cost of living into account so that they do not need to tighten their belts to survive. The government should also consider the cost and benefit of placing the country on lockdown in the long run. If the cost is higher than the benefit, then the policy should be revised. – BebasNews
Dr. Mohd Shahidan Shaari is a Senior Lecturer in Economics, Faculty of Applied and Human Sciences, Universiti Malaysia Perlis