The 50th Anniversary of Sarawak Independence. Photo: Bernama

I’ve been researching about the unemployment, particularly interested in finding out what was the rate for Sarawak over the last 30 years.

It would have take months to compile the data and weeks spend on digging out the details at various libraries.

But thank to Google, particularly Google Public Data a tool than enable us to analyze publicly available government data with just a click of buttons instead of hours of reading, compiling.

It’s an extremely helpful research tool. Here is data I needed.

It really surprised me. The data shows Sarawak unemployment rate consistently above the national rate – for over 3 decades, 30 years!

It peaked in 1998, recorded a double digit figure of 10.3%. Now that is second highest after Terengganu’s peaked at 12.3% in 1989.

Why is Sarawak unemployment rate consistently above the rest of the states in the federation for such long time? With unemployment rate like that is it even possible for Sarawak to become a developed state by 2030!

Why does unemployment matter? Well, of all macroeconomic problems, chronic unemployment probably extracts the highest personal cost: it destroys marriages – there are thousand of Sarawakians currently working outside of the state – particularly peninsular Malaysia.

Johor alone is home to an estimated 30,000 Sarawakians – they even have longhouses. Many of them are separated from their families – kids, wife who are still living in longhouses, villages in Sarawak.

Unemployment also leads to depression, drug abuse not only among youth, but also unemployed adult and in certain case unemployment even lead to suicide.

However at the rate 4.6% in 2011, the state unemployment rate is considered by most economist a ‘full’ employment although national employment rate is much lower at 3.1%.