The Effectiveness of the Government Program to Young Fishermen in Malaysia

The Effectiveness of the Government Program to Young Fishermen in Malaysia

Published: 2020.11.24
Accepted: 2020.11.20
Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (MARDI)
Economic and Social Science Research Centre, Malaysian Agricultural Research and Development Institute (MARDI)
Center of Socio Economic, Market Intelligence and Agribusiness Research, MARDI


The involvement of youth in the fisheries industry is essential in securing good nation-building for the future. These young people are needed by the country to upgrade, modernize and increase the number of skilled workers involved in the fisheries industry. Concerning this, government agencies such as the Fisheries Development Authority of Malaysia (LKIM) and the Department of Fisheries (DOF) have implemented various programs to develop and stimulate the fishery industry’s socio-economy. There are six selected programs involved in this study: Living Allowance (ESH), Capture Incentive (IHT), Natural Disaster and Housing Allowance as well as Diesel and Petrol Subsidies. The objectives of this study are to measure the effectiveness of these programs, and to evaluate the young fishermen satisfaction toward the overall management of these programs. The method used in this research was quantitative methodology by gathering primary data through a set of questionnaires. The findings revealed that the overall satisfaction toward the government program was 50.7%, which means more than half of the youth are satisfied. Meanwhile, the average mean score for the effectiveness of the program management was 4.21 out of 5 points, which implied that most of the young fishermen are satisfied that these programs are effective and beneficial to them.  The findings of this study suggested that there are some rooms for improvement in the management of these programs, and all parties should support the government's efforts to encourage the youth, especially the highly educated youth to be involved in the fisheries industry.

Keywords: youth, fishermen, perception, program effectiveness, fisheries industry


According to the National Agrofood Policy (NAP, 2001-2020), the Ministry of Agriculture and Agro-based industry projected that the landing of marine fisheries will increase from 1.32 million tons in 2010 to 1.76 million tons in 2020 with a growth of 2.9% per annum. Out of these, coastal fishing is projected to contribute around 65% of the total marine catch compared to 35% of deep-sea fisheries by 2020. The statistics provided by the Department of Fisheries Malaysia (DOF) has concluded that in 2018, almost 1,452,862 metric tons of marine fishes have been landed by Malaysian fishermen. Although the amount was relatively small compared to other countries, it is still important to the socioeconomic growth of the people. Since fish is an essential source of protein for the locals, it must be handled carefully. The demand for fish in the country is expected to increase in line with the increase in population and increase in the per capita consumption. Thus, the supply needs to be matched with the demand. In order to sustain the supply of marine fish, the government has realigned fisheries zoning and encouraged the fishing community to be involved in managing fisheries resources.

Despite the fisheries industry is becoming significant in contributing to the growth of the economy; the involvement of youth is at stake as it no longer provides sufficient employment opportunity. As the Malaysian fisheries sector were dominated by the elderly, the involvement of youth is vital to ensure the knowledge transfer to the next generation that will promote a sustainable supply of fisheries resources and its conservation (Erina, 2010). Besides, the younger generation today can be considered as the survival of the nation in the future. Serious attention is needed to be given to the younger generation as they are the assets and hopes of the nation that will lead the country's leadership in the future. They will be one of the sources of energy to contribute to the development of economy of the country. This group will live as members of the society with fully developed skills, as well as the authority to translate and realize the goals of the country that are inspired at present.

The government, through the Department of Fisheries (DoF) and the Fisheries Development Authority of Malaysia (LKIM) has introduced many initiatives and programs that aim at improving the socio-economy of fishermen in Malaysia. The existing program, assistance and incentive set up by the government are more focusing on increasing the livelihood and socio-economic aspect of the fishermen in general (LKIM, 2020). After more than ten years of its implementation, the effectiveness of these programs is still unknown, especially toward the young fishermen in Malaysia. Moreover, in order to fully support and to encourage youth engagement in this industry, it is important to understand the issues and challenges faced by young fishermen that hinder their participation. Furthermore, in order to promote youth engagement in the fisheries industry, the government needs to restructure the programs so that they are more youth-friendly. Therefore, the objectives of this paper are to measure the effectiveness of these programs and to evaluate the level of satisfaction on the overall government programs, assistance, subsidies and incentives.


The world youth population is projected to increase, and reach 1.3 billion by 2050 (Arulingam et al., 2019). Youth can be considered as the transition period from childhood to adulthood, comprising a stage of sexual maturation and reaching social and economic independence from a parent or guardian (Leavy and Smith, 2010; Pyburn et al.2015). According to Pyburn et al. (2015), there are several indicators on how to determine youth, which is the age of time to engage in labor, education, gender, marital status and others. Therefore, the classification of youth varies depending on the context. In this study, the definition of youth is as according to the Ministry of Youth and Sports Malaysia, which are those in the age between 15 and 40 years old (Yassin et al.,2018; Abu Samah et al.,2019). Based on the population data available from the Department of Statistics, about 14 million out of 32.4 million population in Malaysia are aged between 15 and 40 years old.

Statistics released by the LKIM showed that out of 51,608 fishermen in Malaysia in 2017, it was found that those aged 65 years and above were 14.7%. Meanwhile, the highest percentage of fishermen is those between 41-64 years old (59.4%). The youth, which is between the aged of 15-40 was 24.9%. Local studies done by Omar et al. (2012), Shaffril et al. (2013) and Mazuki et al. (2013) have also consistently shown that nearly 30% of fishermen within their studies are young fishermen.

It is seen that the Malaysia fishing industry lacks youth involvement. Almost 70% of fishermen are of the older generation as the work has been perceived as an older man's work for years and the stigma has been preserved until today. The participation of young people in the fisheries and aquaculture industry has been limited in recent decades. This may be pointed by the fact that there are very few prospects and job opportunities for young people in the fisheries and aquaculture industries. This limited youth engagement was also due to structural and policy disparities or are considered malfunctioning. It is with the absence of these resources and the lack of policies that have made young people become afraid to be actively involved in the industry. The Department of Statistic Malaysia (DOSM) reported that, for the year 2018, two-thirds (60.8%) of the total number of migrants were intra-state, where 19.8% were migrants from rural to urban areas compared to only 6.3% who come from urban to rural areas. The migration from rural to urban areas is related to job opportunity or career development (24.3%) and 22.4% because of the environment factors.

In addition, statistics also show that youth are less interested in venturing their careers as fishermen. Most fishermen are among the elderly and this phenomenon can lead to a labor crisis in the fisheries industry. The number of fishermen aged 65 years and above has increased by more than 100% in ten years. Contrarily, the number of young fishermen with the age between 15 and 40 years old has decreased from 26.5% to 24.9% from the past ten years (LKIM, 2020). One of the escalating phenomena is the increasing involvement of foreign fishermen in the fisheries industries, which has led to the continued dependence of the Malaysian fisheries sector on foreign fishermen (LKIM, 2020).


Issues concerning youth involvement in the fisheries industry need to be addressed by the government agencies to secure good nation-building for the future. In order to resolve these issues, government agencies that are involved in the fishery industry have set up various initiatives to develop and improve the socio-economy and livelihood of this community as well as to attract more youth in this industry. There are more than ten programs that have been introduced by the government through their agencies such as the LKIM, the DOF and also federal government. The initiatives include the household living aid (BSH) or formerly known as BR1M. This study selected six programs managed by the government agencies, namely, living allowance (ESH), captured incentive (IHT), natural disaster allowance and housing allowance as well as diesel and petrol subsidies (Table 1).

Table 1 Selected programs for fishermen community in Malaysia.




Fishermen Living Allowance (ESH)

This program was introduced in 2008 to ease the burden of economic pressures of fishermen due to the rising cost of living.

  1. Malaysian citizen
  2. Fishermen who are registered with the Department of Fisheries Malaysia or the Department of Fisheries Sabah
  3. Having a valid Fisherman ID card and a valid vessel registered by the Department of Fisheries.
  4. Employees to vessel owners owned by authorized individuals or companies

Captured Incentive (IHT)

This program was introduced in 2008 with the objective of providing rewards to fishermen who are landing their catchment in Malaysia. Many fishermen sell their fish to neighboring countries due to better price.

  1. The owner of a vessel with the license issued by the Fisheries Department Malaysia or the Department of Fisheries Sabah individually or by the Company.
  2. Having a smart e-diesel or e-petrol card issued by the LKIM
  3. Declaring the catch of fish to LKIM through the e-Declaration system effective from 1 June 2008
  4. Diesel type vessel that landed at selected LKIM jetty

Natural Disaster Allowance

This program was introduced in 2009 and aims to help fishermen who are involved in an accident or hit by disasters such as injuries, disability, death, homes and fishing equipment damage caused by natural disasters such as flood, hurricanes, tsunami, landslides/erosions, earthquakes.

  1. Fishermen who are registered with the Department of Fisheries Malaysia or the Department of Fisheries Sabah
  2. Fishermen with valid fishing card
  3. Fishermen with e-Diesel card and e-Petrol card
  4. Fishermen who are members of the Area Fishermen Association

Housing Allowance

There are three categories of Fishermen Housing Allowance, namely Home renovation, Building a new house and Fishermen resettlement. It aims to address the issues of increasing cost of living to ensure the fishermen can enjoy a better and more comfortable quality of life.

  1. Repairing the existing fisherman’s houses at a maximum cost of RM10,000 (US$2,381) per house in Peninsular Malaysia and RM12,000 (US$2,857) per house in Sabah, Sarawak and Labuan
  2. Building new houses on fishermen's land at a maximum cost of RM40,000 (US$9,524) each in Peninsular Malaysia and RM50,000 (US$11,905) each in Sabah, Sarawak and  Labuan
  3. The Federal Government provides funds for the construction of a maximum of 300 units in each location. The maximum cost is RM40,000 (US$9,524)per house in Peninsular Malaysia and RM50,000 (US$11,905) per house in Sabah, Sarawak and Labuan.

Diesel and Petrol Subsidies

The Diesel and Petrol Subsidy Scheme was started in 2006 to cover a part of the fishing operating costs resulting from the increase of oil prices in the market.

  1. Malaysian citizen
  2. Have a valid fishing vessel license issued by the Fisheries Department Malaysia.
  3. Have a valid fishing vessel license issued by the Department of Fisheries Sabah or Sabah State Ports and Wharfs as well as a Fishing License from the Sabah Fisheries Department.
  4. In 2020, the approved subsidized diesel quota is 60 million liters per month at a rate of RM1.65 (US$0.39) per liter. For petrol subsidies, the subsidized price rate is set at RM1.65 (US$0.39) per liter.

Source: Fisheries Development Authority of Malaysia (LKIM), 2020.


This study used primary data obtained through a field survey conducted on 467 respondents consisting of fishermen from 25 fishermen association areas (PNK) across Malaysia. The respondents were chosen based on the stratified random sampling method. From the total respondents, 71 young fishermen were selected. Young fishermen within this study refer to fishermen aged between 15 and 40 years old. The study used a set of questionnaires to collect the data. All questions in the questionnaire were replicated from the past studies and based on literature related to this study.

Quantitative analysis of the data was performed using the Statistical Package for Social Science (SPSS) version 23 software to evaluate the relationships among the variables studied. Two types of analysis were conducted to answer the objectives, namely descriptive and qualitative analysis.


Socio-economic profile

The socio-economic characteristics of the respondents are presented in Table 2. From all respondents (n= 476), 14.92% (n=71) are youth and almost all of them are men (95.8%). A strong physical body is one of the factors that lead to the higher percentage of men involved in the fishing activities. However, there is a small group of women who are also engaged in this activity, which shows that women also have the skill and interest in this activity. The majority of the respondents are from the Malay ethnicity (81.7%) followed by other races (ethnics in Sabah and Sarawak) (11.3%) while the Chinese ethnic only represents 7%. There were also no young Indian respondents who participated in this study. This study also showed that most of the respondents have secondary level of education (73.2%) while the respondents with primary and tertiary level education consisted of 18.3% and 8.5%, respectively. The proportion of young fishermen who had secondary and tertiary education is higher, and this situation indicates that it will be easier for them to adopt new technology and innovation (Oyelami and Ajanaku, 2019). Table 2 also shows that on average, every respondent has five persons in the family, while the average monthly income is RM2,003 (US$477), which is above the minimum wage level set by the Malaysian Government, which is RM 1,200 (US$286) per month (Federal Government Gazette, 2020).

The Malaysian government manages fishery resources through the area zoning system. This system divides the area into four fishing zones based on the distance from the beach. Table 2 revealed that the majority of younger fishermen operate their fishing activities in zone A (78.9%), while, 15.5% in zone B and 2.8% in zone C. Fishermen in zone A can only operate their fishing activities between 0-5 nautical miles; zone B between 5-12 nautical miles, zone C between 12-30 nautical miles and zone C2 between 30 nautical miles to Exclusive Economic Zone (ZEE) (Samsudin and Shaharuddin, 2017). Fishing vessels with the size less or equal to 40 Gross Register Tonnage (GRT) and with traditional operating equipment are allowed to fish in any zone. Commercial fishing vessels are only allowed to operate in zone B and above, depending on the weight of the ship. In other words, most young fishermen are involved in traditional fisheries areas (Zone A and Zone B) while only 2.8% are involved in commercial fisheries, which use vessels that are more than 40 GRT.  On average, these young fishermen had already been involved in this fishing activity for 13 years. There are some fishermen also involved in manufacturing agro-food products, but the percentage is small, which is 11.3%.

Youth perceptions and their satisfaction toward the programs for fishermen community

The government has introduced many programs and initiatives that could improve the socio-economy and ease the burden of fishermen in Malaysia. Under this study, six programs were selected and analyzed. In general, all programs and initiatives implemented by the DOF and LKIM have benefited the fishermen community (Figure 1).  

Overall, the living allowance program (ESH) is the most effective program, where around 85.71% of fishermen in Malaysia received the benefit, followed by petrol subsidies (58.61%), captured incentive (37.39%), diesel subsidies (19.12%) housing allowance (17.0%) and natural disaster allowance (5.88%). However, out of these, only 11.17% of youth received the benefits from all programs. The analysis by program shows that the youth received the benefit more from the natural disaster allowance and diesel subsidies with the score of 14.29%, followed by captured incentive (11.80%), living allowance (11.27%), petrol subsidies (10.75%) and housing allowance (6.17%).  The results show that youth are more adventurous and may be affected by dangerous fishing activities. They also used diesel vessel, which is normally more robust then the petrol vessels. Many youth are still living with their parents, and thus, not many of them received the living allowance and housing allowance. 

Table 3 shows the satisfaction level of the youth toward the overall program implemented by the government. Overall, around half of the young fishermen are satisfied with the programs and initiatives implemented by government agencies.

The results show that the number of dissatisfied young fishermen are still of great value. This needs to be rectified and taken seriously by the agencies involved, such as the LKIM and the DOF. After more than ten years of implementation, the programs and initiatives are still unable to satisfy the young fishermen.  Various available programs can be provided to attract young people to participate in this fishing industry. The increase of older fishermen is compounded by low percentage of youth participation as a fisherman and it will affect the productivity in the future.

Table 4 shows the mean score for the effectiveness of the selected government programs towards increasing fishermen socio-economy. Housing allowance has received the highest score (4.8) that indicates the recipients are satisfied with implementation of this program. The second effective program is the natural disaster allowance, followed by the diesel subsidies with scores of 4.75 and 4.46, respectively. The other three programs that include the living allowance, the captured incentive and the petrol subsidies recorded mean less than 4 which indicate that it is neither ineffective nor effective and there is still room to improve on these programs, especially for youth. According to a report by LKIM, in 2020, more then 89.2% of fishermen want the government to improve the subsidies or incentives given to them, especially the fishermen in Sabah, Sarawak and Perak. This is true when the government reduced the living allowance from RM300 (US$71.40) a month to RM200 (US$47.60) a month in 2018.


The fishery industry is very important to Malaysia as it is one of the sources of protein for its people. In 2017, this industry produced about 1.7 million MT of fishery products, including 1.5 million MT from captured and 0.2 million MT from aquaculture. In the same year, the total value of the fishery products was estimated around RM10.8 billion (US$2.57 billion) (DOF, 2018). This industry has also contributed around 14% to the agricultural GDP in 2018. Fisheries have been identified as a strategic sector in the government’s program to increase domestic food production. In addition, the government also plans to develop this industry for generating income from the export of fisheries products.

The future of the fisheries industry in Malaysia is toward the development of the aquaculture as most of the marine fishery outputs are used except in the East Malaysia.  The government has put in place numerous conservation efforts and implemented certain policies to reduce over-fishing activities. There is a lot of freshwater fish potential, but it is not popular among local consumers. Thus, the new direction is to enhance the processing industry for freshwater fish for export markets. Malaysia was ranked 15th in the world and 6th Asean in terms of aquaculture fish production in 2017, with 427,022 MT worth RM3.041 billion US$0.724 billion.

Aquaculture was targeted for development, and government programs are also designed to support these strategic plans.  Various management strategies had been formulated and implemented to promote the sustainability of aquaculture resources and ecosystem. More funds and initiatives will be provided so that more young people will be attracted to be involved in the fisheries industries. For example, the venture of pond shrimps for exports has penetrated the European and United States markets, and thus created great opportunities for youth to be involved as an entrepreneur in this new venture. 

To attract young people to join the fishing industry, the government should promote fisherman as an entrepreneur who could generate more income and financial security. More incentives should be provided for those who wanted to start their careers as fish-based entrepreneurs, especially for deep-sea fishing activities, aquaculture venture and processing industries that promise more income.


The youth are the assets, the future manpower and the future leaders of every nation. They will be one of the factors for the success or failure of an industry. The involvement of the youth is still lacking, and these phenomena will affect the fisheries industries in Malaysia. The youth are reluctant to participate in this industry as there is still a stigma that this industry cannot offer better job opportunities or financial security. 

The programs and initiatives that are implemented by the government are for the fishermen community in general, and do not take into account the needs of the youth. No specific program was introduced for young fishermen, and thus, these programs are not effective to them. Only half of the youth are satisfied and feel the benefit of the program, while the other half are not satisfied. The government needs to examine all programs and initiatives that have been implemented, and it is timely to redesign special programs that can attract the youth to participate and sustain the existing young fishermen in the industry.

The findings of this study suggested that there are ample opportunities to improve the management of the programs, and all parties should support the government's efforts to encourage the involvement of youth, especially highly educated youth in the fisheries sector in developing this industry.


Abu Samah, A., Shaffril, H. A. M., Hamzah, A., & Abu Samah, B. (2019). Factors affecting     small-scale fishermen’s adaptation toward the impacts of climate change: reflections        from Malaysian fishers. SAGE Open, 9(3), 2158244019864204.

Arulingam, I., Nigussie, L., Senaratna Sellamuttu, S., & Debevec, L. (2019). Youth   Participation In Small-Scale Fisheries, Aquaculture and Value Chains in Africa And    The Asia-Pacific. CGIAR Research Program on Fish Agri-Food Systems.

Erina,N. (2010). How to fully engage youth in enhancing Fisheries and Aquaculture in Sub    Saharan Africa. International conference on Fisheries and Aquaculture development        for Socio-economic growth in Malawi.

Federal Government Gazette (2020). Copyright of the Attorney General’s Chambers of   Malaysia.

Fisheries Development Authority of Malaysia (LKIM). (2020). Laporan Banci 2017/2018, Sosioekonomi Nelayan dan Data isi Rumah (SENDI) Ke Tiga, Kuala Lumpur,      Malaysia: LKIM.

Leavy J and Smith S. (2010). Future Farmers: Youth Aspirations, Expectations and Life   Choices. FAC Discussion Paper 13. Brighton, UK: Future Agricultures Consortium.

Mazuki, R., Omar, S. Z., Bolong, J., D’Silva, J. L., & Shaffril, H. A. M. (2013). Social   Influence in Using ICT among Fishermen in Malaysia. Asian Social Science, 9(2),   135-138. Omar, S. Z., Shaffril, H. A. M.,   D’Silva, J. L., Bolong, J., & Abu

Nawang, W. M. Z. W., Ahmad, W., Mamat, I., & Isa, A. M. M. (2009). Faktor peramal minat          belia untuk menjadi nelayan: Satu kajian di Mukim Kuala Besut, Terengganu. Sains         Humanika, 50(1).

Omar, S. Z., Shaffril, H. A. M., D’Silva, J. L., Bolong, J., & Abu Hassan, M. (2012). Usage          of Offshore ICT among Fishermen in Malaysia. Journal of Food, Agriculture and    Environment, (3&4), 1315-1319.

Oyelami, B.A., and Ajanaku, A.O. (2019). Assessment of Youth Involvement in Livestock    Farming as a Career in Oluyole Local Government, Ibadan. International Journal of         Forest, Animal and Fisheries Research. Vol. 3, Issues 4, page 146-153.

Pyburn R, Audet-Bélanger G, Dido S, Quiroga G and Flink I. (2015). Unleashing Potential:    Gender and Youth Inclusive Agri-Food Chains. KIT Working Papers 2015-7.       Amsterdam: Royal Tropical Institute.

Samsudin, M., and Shaharuddin, S. (2017). Pembentukan Malaysia’s National Plan of Action         to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing        (Malaysia’s NPOA-IUU): Usaha Melindungi Industri Perikanan Malaysia, Isu-isu Terkini Penyelidikan Saintifik Sains Marin di Malaysia. Vol. 1, page 12-17.

Shaffril, H. A. M., Abu Samah, B., D’Silva, J. L., & Yassin, S. M. (2013). The process of       social adaptation towards climate change among Malaysian fishermen. International         Journal of Climate Change Management and Strategies, 5(1), 38-53.

Yassin, S. M., Mohamed Shaffril, H. A., Hamzah, A., & Idris, K. (2018). Assessing Rural Youth Sustainable Livelihood in Malaysia. Pertanika Journal of Social Sciences & Humanities.

Zaimah Darawi. (1996). Program institut latihan dan pengembangan pertanian. In Abd. Malik          Ismail and Mohaini Tajudin (ed.), Institusi Pertanian: Peranan, Masalah dan        Keberkesanan. Kuala Lumpur: Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka.