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Johor Bahru is Malaysia's second biggest city, and its strategic location is ensuring its rapid development. It is commonly referred to as JB and is the southernmost city in Malaysia, as well as the capital of the state of Johor. The population of Johor Bahru currently stands at approximately 3.66 million but its annual growth rate of 1.2% makes it among the highest in South-East Asia.

The state is also a focal area in the Indonesia-Singapore-Malaysia Growth Triangle (IMS-GT), which was created to “strengthen the regional economic links and to optimise the complementarity between the three adjacent areas”, and Johor Bahru brings abundant labour, natural resources and land to the table.

Over 300,000 people commute from JB to work in Singapore, and many Singaporean citizens head to Johor Bahru for more affordable shopping. It is practically a Singaporean suburb and is linked to the island metropolis via the Causeway and 2nd Link bridges. There are hopes that an agreement for a cross-border MRT system between the Bukit Chagar terminus in Johor in Malaysia and the Woodlands North terminus in Singapore will be signed by the end of 2017.

Local economy and employment opportunities

Johor Bahru is an important city, both economically and geographically speaking. JB is on track to becoming the place to be in Malaysia thanks partly to the megaproject, Iskandar, which is set to transform the city (as one of the five Flagship Zones in the state of Johor) from a chaotic border town into a cultural and commercial hub that appeals to tourists and investors alike. It is the largest single development project ever to be undertaken in the region and is set to be driven by the services sectors, with support from selected manufacturing sectors namely electrical and electronics, food processing, petrochemical and oleochemical, which are key economic drivers in the region. U.S.-based chocolate maker, Hershey Co., is among those building a plant in Iskandar, joining tenants such as Legoland Malaysia amusement park.

Five core sectors will be promoted for strength and stability electrical and electronics; petrochemical and oil & gas; food and agroprocessing; logistics; and tourism. Four emerging sectors will also be promoted to drive economic growth finance, insurance, real estate and business services (FIREBS); creative industries; health services; and education.

Many investors are now choosing to set up their headquarters and factories in Johor Bahru. The Johor State Investment Centre has been established to try to attract foreign and domestic investments to Johor, and the Sultan of Johor hopes for the state to become an economic powerhouse, complementing Singapore as opposed to competing with it.

Meanwhile, the city received 6.42 million tourists in 2015, making tourism an important and ever expanding sector. Chinese tourists are a particular focus market, and the introduction of the e-visa, as well as the electronic travel registration and information (ENTRI), aim to make Johor more accessible to Chinese nationals, especially those visiting or residing in Singapore.

Due to the fast expansion in the tourism sector, and the promotion of stable sectors and emerging sectors, there is most definitely a place for foreign expertise in Johor Bahru. With development plans like Iskandar targeting international investors, and the local government focusing on developing the tourist market and economy, qualified and experienced foreigners can indeed be an asset in JB. Those with language skills would be particularly desirable.

Finding a job in Johor Baharu

If you're looking for a job in this strategic location in South-East Asia, then you can search for job vacancies on specialised websites or contact a recruitment agency. A professional social network, such as LinkedIn, and expatriate forums also prove to be invaluable tools, as are local contacts and networking events.

 Useful links:

Tourism Johor
Jobs DB

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