Calling all youths: ‘We need your input for the National Youth Policy’

December 20, 2018

National Youth Survey is currently being carried out to update Brunei’s youth policies, with the aim of gathering feedback from a wide variety of people outside established youth organisations.

UNISSA graduates smile as they receive their diplomas during the university's convocation ceremony on Sept 17, 2018. Photo: Infofoto

The Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports has commissioned the Centre of Strategic and Policy Studies to conduct the survey, which will take a more grassroots approach to gauge social issues affecting young people.

The survey will be used to review and update the National Youth Policy (Dasar Belia Negara), which was first established in 2002 as part of efforts to form a cohesive approach to address the social and economic trends affecting youth.

According to the Department of Economic Planning and Development, the total population of youths – defined in Brunei as those from age 15 to 40 — stood at 194,100.

According to the ministry, preliminary results of the survey will be shared at the upcoming Youth Congress in February 2019.

Challenges of digital era need to be addressed

Secretariat of the National Youth Survey, Muhd Ihsan Sabri Hj Abd Manap, said that the “fourth industrial revolution” has created a need for the policy to be reviewed to reflect and address challenges faced by youth in a digital age.

The digital age, he noted, has brought a number of challenges affecting young people, such as a changing job market, which can often cause anxiety.

“Today, we are in the midst of a digital economy which demands a lot of change. These changes encompass numerous things — from the values that you hold, to the sets of skills that you have”.

He said that a significant number of youths have been identified experiencing a sort of “crisis”, displaying attitudes that show a lack of understanding or pride in the Bruneian identity.

With this in mind, Muhd Ihsan said that the ministry found it apt for the next National Youth Policy to be reviewed with the “voices of youth” leading the initiative, aiming to instill a sense of ownership and accountability among youths regarding the policy.

He added that since the policy was first established more than 10 years ago, a number of the strategic areas have been addressed, especially those that revolve around youth enterprises such as the establishment of Darussalam Enterprise (DARe).

Not just youth leaders, everyone should be heard

“We want to learn about the issues surrounding our country’s youth through a bottom-top approach, to get the input and feedback straight from the source.

“Which is why we are directly engaging [them], to get a better understanding of what they are thinking.”

He explained that the first National Youth Policy back in 2002 was also based on feedback provided by young people. However, they were members of recognised youth associations, and not necessarily representative of the entire demographic.

“The National Youth Policy, by right, should be created by youths for youths. So we want to be inclusive, to include youths of different intersections — whether they are from economic backgrounds or they are differently-abled, everyone should be heard.”

Muhd Ihsan went on to say that the National Youth Survey will extend until January, with a target of 4,000 respondents, in hopes that the preliminary findings would be used during the Youth Congress, which is slated for February next year.

Unemployment still main worry for youths

When The Scoop met with respondents of the survey, the issues of concern to them varied greatly, although the fear of unemployment loomed large.

In October, it was revealed that 5,513 students graduated from local tertiary institutions this year, in addition to the 9,654 active jobseekers currently registered on the JobCentre website.

Commenting on the National Youth Survey, Muhd Khairul Affendy Abdullah, 23, said that it is important for the nation to equip young entrepreneurs with the skills and resources to become successful heads of industries.

“If this could happen, at least our own youths could have a hand in the growth of the private sector, which could expand the job market here,” he said.

For Munawarah Hj Khamis, 24, a jobseeker who is also an active volunteer, she believes more should be done to increase youth’s participation in local government, by becoming members of village consultative councils.

“The inter-generational dialogue alone, I think, would be invaluable to us youths, because our elders could help us a lot in terms of administrative and leadership skills.

“Also, being involved in local government could expand our network, which in the long run, can help secure opportunities that we might not have had”.

Fresh graduate Siti Nabilah Hj Mu’min, 22, hopes to see more equal opportunity for women, believing that senior positions both in the public and private sector are dominated by men.

Meanwhile, Fadil Sofian Abas, an aspiring graphic designer, believes that more platforms should be developed for the creative industry in Brunei.

“I see that the creative industry in Brunei is growing in prominence, and I hope this continues in the coming years because it could spell a positive impact for the nation, not only in terms of the economy, but also for the creation of new jobs,” said the 23-year-old.

To fill out the national youth survey online, visit the link here. Submission are open until January 2019.