Home Industry The Malaysian Wage Conundrum for 2020

The Malaysian Wage Conundrum for 2020

by Gopalakrishnan Nair
DOSM Salary & Wages Survey

Mean monthly salaries and wages fell 9.0 percent in 2020, the first time decline since the series began in 2010, the Department of Statistics Malaysia (DOSM) reported today on Statistics of Salaries & Wages, Malaysia, 2020.

This statistic was compiled based on Salaries & Wages Survey conducted by DOSM which measured the monthly salaries and wages received by full-time equivalent employees among the Malaysian citizens working in the private and public sectors based on their principal occupation. Out of 15.0 million employed persons in 2020,the number of citizen salaries & wages recipients was 9.4 million persons. This Salaries & Wages Survey Report described median and mean monthly salaries & wages as well as number of recipients by demographic and socioeconomic characteristics.

According to Dato’ Sri Dr. Mohd Uzir Mahidin, the Chief Statistician Malaysia, “Throughout the year 2020, the Malaysia’s labour market experienced uneven momentum following of health crisis and economic consequences. This had caused job losses as well as cancellation or freezing of new hires and subsequently resulting total employment to decline. Besides, strict COVID-19 containment measures adopted in the country also had limited the business operation hours and led to the reduction in working hours.

Mean monthly salaries & wages fell 9.0 percent in 2020, the first time decline since the series began in 2010

Hence, the mean monthly salaries and wages received by Malaysian citizens in 2020 fell for the first time since the series began in 2010 by negative 9.0 percent. After two consecutive years recording more than RM3,000, the mean monthly salaries & wages declined to RM2,933 in 2020 (2019: RM3,224).

By economic activity, all sectors recorded decreases in mean monthly salaries and wages. Three sectors posted a double-digit decline namely, Agriculture (-20.0%), mining and quarrying (-17.7%) and construction (-10.4%) while services and manufacturing sectors registered a fall of 9.4 percent and 2.8 percent respectively. Meanwhile, among the industries in the Services sector which concentrated high number of salaries and wages recipients were wholesale and retail trade; repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles; and accommodation and food and beverage service activities. These industries recorded a double-digit decline in mean monthly salaries and wages with negative 14.9 percent and negative 13.7 percent respectively.

Adding to this, he said, “The mean monthly salaries and wages for skilled employees was RM4,619 (2019: RM5,072). In this skilled occupation category, managers received the highest mean monthly salaries and wages at RM6,479 followed by professionals (RM5,301) and technicians and associate professionals (RM3,313).

However, the mean value received by managers registered the largest contraction as compared to the previous year (2019: RM8,855). Meanwhile, the mean value of semi-skilled employees was RM2,007 (2019: 2,206). Within this category, it was observed that mean salaries and wages received by clerical support workers was RM2,370 while the other semi-skilled occupations category registered a mean value lower than RM2,000 namely services and sales workers (RM1,926); skilled agricultural, forestry, livestock and fishery workers (RM1,547); craft and related trades workers (RM1,891); and Plant and machine-operators and assemblers (RM1,918). As for the elementary workers, they received mean monthly salaries and wages of RM1,727 in 2020”.

Commenting further on the salaries and wages situation by stratum, Dato’ Sri Dr. Mohd Uzir Mahidin said, “Although the mean monthly salaries and wages for both urban and rural stratum declined in 2020, mean value in urban posted a larger decrease of 9.3 percent to RM3,089. In the meantime, mean in rural areas reduced with a rate of 5.5 percent to RM2,086. By state, the highest mean monthly salaries and wages was received by employees in W.P. Putrajaya(RM4,497). The other states that also recorded mean value above the national level were W.P. Kuala Lumpur (RM3,823), Selangor (RM3,480), Negeri Sembilan (RM3,013) and W.P. Labuan (RM2,942). All states recorded a decline in mean monthly salaries and wages as compared to 2019’’.

Another perspective of analysing the situation of monthly salaries and wages is the median value. In this context, median monthly salaries & wages recorded a double-digit decrease of 15.6 percent, after an average growth of 5.6 percent for the past nine years. The median value was RM2,062 indicates half of employees earned above this value and half earned below. In terms of the number of recipients in 2020, it increased albeit at a slower rate of 2.1 percent to 9.4 million persons as compared to an increase of 5.0 percent recorded in 2019 (9.2 million persons)”.

Concluding the overall situation in 2020, the Chief Statistician said, “The unprecedented event in 2020 had lowered the salaries and wages received by full-time citizen employees in Malaysia. This scenario was also experienced globally whereby International Labour Organization (ILO) reported based on early data from national statistical offices showed that the level or growth rate of average wages around two thirds of the countries in the world was on a downward trend including Japan, the Republic of Korea and the United Kingdom.

Countries that adopted job retention measures were able to retain employment albeit at a lower salaries and wages and subsequently mitigated job losses. Malaysia experienced the same scenario, whereby wage subsidy and employment retention programmes have helped to cushion the impact of job losses in 2020. In relation to this, the Social Security Organisation (SOCSO) reported a total of 107,024 individuals had lost their jobs while the number of placements in 2020 was160,554 persons.

Observing the situation in 2021, the challenges persist as the new daily cases of COVID-19 has been consistently high towards the end of May. Although various phases of MCO have been continuously implemented throughout this year to curb the spread of this pandemic, some flexibilities for economic activities are allowed to operate by adhering to strict SOP. Continuous initiatives are implemented in paving the ways towards economic recovery supported by the numerous stimulus packages to ensure business sustainability. Hence, as the country’s economic situation improve, it will lead to the recovery of labour market and subsequently help to bring up the salaries and wages earned by employees”.

The Malaysia Population and Housing Census 2020 (Malaysia Census 2020) via online (e-Census) is being conducted nationwide until full coverage has been accomplished. All Malaysian residents are urged to cooperate in realising the success of Malaysia Census 2020 to ensure that no one is left behind. Please visit the Malaysia Census 2020 portal at or their social media @MyCensus2020 for more info.

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