Finding work in Malaysia

Updated 2020-04-30 09:47

If you wish to work in Malaysia, it's important to be aware of the job market and conditions. Immigration regulations are tightly controlled and the authorities are very selective about whom they allow to work in the country. Most Malaysians are well educated and fluent in several of the local languages, so priority is given to Malaysian citizens when possible. Local and international companies must, therefore, provide substantial justification for hiring foreigners, and gain the necessary approval.

However, don't let this put you off finding a job in Malaysia, as rapidly developing sectors mean that foreign talent can still play a valuable role in the labour market. Before applying for a job, consider getting a free CV review at TopCV.

Getting an Employment Pass

In terms of cultural and intellectual diversity, foreign workers can be a real asset for a Malaysian company. An expatriate's experience and qualifications can be invaluable ' particularly if the company is involved in the international market ' and many multinational corporations are very open to hiring expatriates.

Malaysian companies that wish to hire foreign employees have to meet specific conditions. Firstly, they must register with the Expatriate Services Division (ESD), which takes 14 working days. If the company is approved, it can begin the process of gaining approval from the Expatriate Committee or relevant authorities to hire a foreigner, which requires also getting a recommendation letter from the related sector agency. Then it can submit an application for an Employment Pass.

Expatriates are not allowed to apply for their own Employment Pass, and an expatriate must meet certain conditions in order to qualify. They must either be offered a top managerial role in a foreign-owned company operating in Malaysia, an executive post with required experience and qualifications, or be highly skilled with indispensable technical knowledge. Expatriates filling these positions must have a minimum of a bachelor's degree that is relevant to the position, and professional experience in Asia is often sought-after. They must be paid a minimum monthly wage of RM5,000 and be offered at least a two-year contract. Expatriates who are offered a monthly wage of more than RM8,000 will be given automatic approval so long as requested documents are submitted by the company.

The company itself must also meet specific requirements. It needs to be registered with either the Companies Commission of Malaysia, the Registry of Societies Malaysia, or cooperatives registered under Malaysian law. It also needs to meet Paid-Up capital requirements and foreign capital in the company needs to be at least RM500,000. Furthermore, it needs to convince the immigration authorities that it has vacancies that require skilled workers from other countries.

Promising sectors

Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) comprised 36.3% of the Malaysian economy in 2015, and SME growth consistently outpaces Malaysia's overall GDP growth. According to the Minister of Domestic Trade, Cooperatives and Consumerism, the SME sector is the biggest employer in Malaysia, accounting fo 65.5% of total employment in 2015. The government recognises that SMEs are a vital component of the economy and is giving strong support to their development. More than 90% of SMEs are in the services sector, while 6% are in manufacturing.

Manufactured goods, such as electronics and electrical products, dominate the export market in Malaysia, and it is also one of the major exportors of oil and gas in the Asia Pacific region.

Malaysia's healthcare sector is thriving and the country has been hailed by the UN Development Programme as 'a model for other developing countries'. In 2010, the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP) was established to transform Malaysia into a high-income economy by 2020. Under this initiative, healthcare was identified as one of 12 National Key Economic Areas, along with communication content and infrastructure; palm oil; wholesale and retail; oil, gas and energy; financial services; business services; electronics and electrical; education; agriculture; and tourism. The forward-thinking attitude shown by the government is resulting in new markets, as well as business opportunities in these sectors for foreign talent.

On the Immigration Departmet of Malaysia's website, you can find a list of positions that are not permitted for expatriates.

Working conditions

The Employment Act of 1955 established a maximum 48-hour working week in Malaysia, but do be warned that many Malaysians work much longer hours in spite of this. Eight days of paid annual leave is entitled for every 12 months of continuous service with a new employer. After two years of working for the same company, this increases to 12 days.

Female employees, who have been working for at least four months for the company before they give birth, are entitled to a 60-day maternity leave.

New employees are entitled to 14 days of sick leave in the aggregate of each calendar year if a registered medical practitioner, paid for and appointed by the employee, deems it necessary.

Since the Minimum Retirement Age Act was enforced in July 2013, the retirement age for private sector employees is now 60 years old.

Social security

There are two social security protection schemes in Malaysia that are run by the Malaysian Social Security Organisation, known as PERKESO, which receives monthly contributions from employers and employees to build up funds that will pay social security benefits in the event of accidents or illnesses. The Employment Injury Scheme provides protection for employees who suffer injury or an occupational disease as a result of their employment. The Invalidity Scheme provides coverage to employees who suffer from invalidity or death due to any cause not related to their employment. Employees under the age of 60 are required to contribute 0.5% of their monthly wage, while their employer contributes 1.75%.

Additionally, the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) was established to provide retirement benefits to those working in the private sector or non-pensionable public sectors. Foreign workers who are legally employed in Malaysia are not liable to contribute but may opt to contribute to the EPF.

As expatriates are required to receive a wage of over RM5,000 a month, the employer's contribution will be 12%, while the employee's contribution has recently been reduced to 8% if they are younger than 60 years old. As a foreigner, you can withdraw all of your savings at the age of 55 and remit them back to your home country via a Foreign Bank Draft.

Coverage on the Foreign Workers Hospitalisation and Surgical Scheme (FWHS) is also required for foreigners between 18 and 59 years old before their Employment Pass can be issued. This is a yearly renewable insurance scheme designed to reduce the financial burden of any hospital admission of foreign workers.

Useful links:

Expatriate Services Division
The Government of Malaysia' Official Gateway
Immigration Department of Malaysia
Overview of requirements for expatriates
Documents required to apply for an Employment Pass
Employees Provident Fund
Malaysian Labour Law
Jobs Malaysia
Monster Malaysia
Jobs DB

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