Find a job in Ipoh

Updated 2022-05-17 14:53

Ipoh is the capital of the state of Perak and is often considered a quiet, medium-sized city that offers fewer career or employment opportunities than major Malaysian cities. Nevertheless, this colonial enclave continues to seduce with its more laid-back lifestyle, while offering decent amenities, as well as delicious local cuisine.

Thanks to its charm and tranquility that marks its status as a so-called "secondary" city, Ipoh is one of the best places to visit in Asia. The Kinta River naturally divides Ipoh between the Old Town area, on one side, and the New Town area, on the other. Thanks to the shops and street art that have sprung up amidst old cafes and elegant colonial buildings, Ipoh's old town is spawning back, attracting foodies and explorers, but also investors and businessmen.

The cost of living in Ipoh is considerably lower than in Kuala Lumpur, and many people think they can save more there. There are also benefits at working in more family-friendly, less urbanized environments, and this aspect is attracting more and more foreigners.

Located about 175 kilometers from Kuala Lumpur, halfway between the former administrative capital and Penang, Ipoh counted 842,000 inhabitants in 2022. In fact, the history of the city begins in the 1840s, after the discovery of an iron deposit on the banks of the Kinta River. A true mushroom city, Ipoh was mainly developed by prospecting companies. This is the reason why its development has almost stopped following the mining decline in Malaysia.

Ipoh has a special place in the history of Malaysia. The city served as the headquarters of British Malaysia's networks of Chinese liaison officers force 136 during World War II, a spy and counterintelligence unit that played a considerable role against the invading Japanese forces in the country and elsewhere in Asia. Their leader, Lim Bo Seng, died under torture in Ipoh after being captured by the Japanese army in June 1944. He is now considered a national hero in Malaysia, but also in Singapore. A national monument is dedicated to him in Esplanade Park.

Local economy and labor market

The boom in tin mining during the 19th century is responsible for the major development of the city, which was at that time, the second administrative center of Malaysia during British colonization. The name of the state, Perak, actually means "money," an interesting reference to the state's legacy when it was one of the largest tin producers in the world.

However, Perak's economy suffered from the decline of the global tin industry in the 1980s. A representative of the Malaysian Institute of Economic Research pointed out in 2016 that with its current growth rate, Perak could only achieve high-income status in 2029. In addition, since the consequences of Covid-19 in Malaysia have been severe, Ipoh's growth has been harshly slowed in the early 2020s.

However, due to its location between Penang and the Klang Valley, which are somehow the financial capitals of Malaysia, it became easy for investors to bypass the state of Perak. To overcome this problem, Pangkor International Development Dialogue Forums (PIDD) have been established to guide the region towards sustainable economic growth and contribute to the creation of a better business environment in the region. That came with some success, as the state government was looking for ways to diversify the regional economy. Since then, investors started businesses in the state even before the pandemic occured.

The Industrial production sector in particular has been identified as a key driver of economic growth in Ipoh and has flourished over the past thirty years. Mining of eight types of minerals has also been revived, with the aim of making Perak the largest mining and extraction state in Malaysia. Soils are indeed extremely rich in the region, and mining remains to this day, one of the most successful domestic industries in Malaysia. In addition, Perak can boast about being the only place in Malaysia to produce sericite. The state is still a major producer of tin and construction sand in the country.

The Perak State Development Corporation (PKNP) is the agency responsible for carrying out the economic development and socio-economic growth of Perak. Its main areas of interest are real estate development, ports and logistics, as well as hospitality and tourism. Before the Covid-19 pandemic in 2019, the state welcomed no less than 21.1 million tourists. In order to turn around the tourism industry, so important to many families in Ipoh and the region, the Perak regional government announced in December 2021 the introduction of new tourism products such as the National Heritage Dredge and TT5 Maze Park. During that promotional campaign, the focus was also placed on existing attractions such as Kuak Hill Resort, Embum Sahon Gopeng or Gunung Lang Recreational Park in Ipoh.

The city's colonial past is still reflected in its architecture. Ipoh's historic buildings, such as the Birch Memorial Clocktower and the Victorian-era train station, normally attract thousands of tourists. After the independence of the state of Perak in 1957, many colonial buildings were left to die. For the past twenty years, and especially in the old town, restorations have been in full swing and the heritage houses of Ipoh are making a comeback.

As a result of such a renaissance, the tourism sector in Ipoh has experienced strong growth. Before the pandemic, many boutique hotels, cafes and restaurants sprang up in century-old buildings in Ipoh's Old Town. That helped reinforce the mix of modernity and nostalgia that makes Ipoh so charming. The region's first theme animation park, Movie Animation Park Studios (MAPS), opened a few years ago (2017) and has quickly become one of the main tourist attractions in the city and region. The park features the largest waterfall tower in Malaysia, the Megamind Megadrop, which rises to a height of 52 meters. At the end of January 2020, the park temporarily closed its doors following the advent of the Covid-19 epidemic in Malaysia. It had still not reopened in March 2022.

Malaysia's Department of Statistics estimated Perak's population at 2.5 million in 2021, making it the fifth most populous state in Malaysia. In 2020, the state had an unemployment rate of 4.8%. However, the labor market is rather restricted in Ipoh, but there are several hiring opportunities for foreigners. Indeed, the State is open to collaboration with international actors to revitalize the region. Ipoh is certainly not to be neglected if you prefer a quieter and more relaxed pace of life, and especially very far from the usual frenzy of large megacities like Kuala Lumpur.

Finding a job in Ipoh

Most foreigners who want to work in Ipoh start their job search on the internet. It is advised to consult professional social networks, such as LinkedIn, as well as specialized job sites. It may also be worth checking out expat forums in Malaysia to find more specific information.

The Top 10 Most Successful International Companies based in Ipoh include Intel Corporation, Dell Technologies, Deloitte, Teleperformance, Ernst & Young, KPMG, Motorola Solutions, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), McDonald's and UST. From what we can see, the technology and financial services sectors are taking the lion's share, and these are sectors that are very much in demand for skilled expats. It is indeed not uncommon for manufacturers of technological tools to be based at mining sites such as Perak, thus being closer to the minerals. There are obvious needs for the manufacturing of computers, tablets or Smartphones. Visiting the sites of these companies, or simply inquiring directly by phone with these companies about possible recruitment campaigns, can be fruitful for the expatriate job seeker in Ipoh.

Manufacturing is another sector that employs well in Ipoh. Not only for computers and other digital tools. One of Malaysia's largest manufacturing companies, Top Industries, has no less than five locations within the city for its offices and factories. Its main activities nowadays are the recycling of plastic objects and the manufacture of protective equipment such as masks and gloves. Needless to say, the demand for such equipment has increased sharply since 2020, and so did Ipoh. The company has therefore experienced remarkable development in just two years.

As a city with more and more companies specializing in the design of digital tools or IT services, Ipoh is becoming particularly attractive to programmers, coders and structured query language (SQL) specialists, especially those who work independently. Indeed, the proximity of large multinational companies such as Dell or Intel promotes the development of SMEs and startups that offer these giants effective and innovative digital solutions. These small companies are usually only composed of less than a dozen employees, and often do not have the means to pay a full-time coder, which is why freelance workers are favored most of the time.

If you have the necessary experience and want to become a digital nomad in Malaysia, Ipoh is undoubtedly one of the best options to consider with regards to its beautiful work environment, its very relaxed working atmosphere. Moreover there are many cafes along its streets, notwithstanding all the coworking spaces that have multiplied in the city in recent years. Such platforms are now in high demand by young professionals, SMEs and startups in Malaysia. Larger companies are also on the lookout, as they could profit from lower rents and a conducive environment to innovation and productivity. Coworking spaces also strongly promote professional networking, as occupants from different backgrounds rub shoulders on a daily basis.

Some of Ipoh's most popular coworking platforms include Incubator4U, Jom Kerja Coworking Space, WeGlocal, Ipoh Office Space, PBUY Space, Secret Co-Space and WorkPoint Office Rentals, to name a few. Rents are generally more affordable than in large cities, and there are different rental and payment methods that can accommodate a wide range of professionals, such as renting a small space for the day or renting a full floor for more prominent companies.

In short, Ipoh has significant potential for expats who wish to enjoy the tranquility of Malaysian life, in a lush and rich environment both culturally and professionally. In addition, the efforts to decentralize Kuala Lumpur by the Malaysian authorities, a policy introduced in recent years to promote a more equitable sharing of the economic pie in Malaysia, strongly favors the development of smaller and more charming cities such as Ipoh. After all, who wouldn't want to work just steps from beautiful, lush forests, beautiful colonial buildings or many brick-and-mortar cafes and restaurants? Ipoh is all this, and much more for those who take the trouble to discover this city in its every corner.

Useful links:

Invest Perak

Ipoh Echo

Career Jet


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