DEPENDING on their skills and where they have to work, fresh graduates are hoping for higher starting pay of between RM2,000 and RM3,000.
And that's for a smaller town like Ipoh.
Those interviewed by MetroPerak are saying that times have changed and that a fresh graduate’s starting pay should be reasonable in order for them to cope with the current cost of living.
Mass Communication graduate Audrey Yeap, 23, said she had different salary expectations based on which city she was expected to work in.
“For Ipoh, I think somewhere around RM2,200 to RM2,500 is good. I don’t have too many expectations for employee benefits, but it would be a bonus if a company offers dental, medical and overtime benefits.
“If I were to work in Kuala Lumpur, I would hope for my pay to be RM2,800 because living and working in Kuala Lumpur would be costlier.
“Things are more expensive in a big city. If I move from Ipoh, I would have to consider renting a place of my own, and I would be paying more for petrol and toll considering, how congested larger cities are, especially during peak hours,” she told MetroPerak.
On April 5, Human Resources Minister Datuk Seri Richard Riot was quoted as saying that a comprehensive study on the starting pay of workers is underway to gauge the impact of the rising cost of living.
The study, he said, would cover all sectors and looked at what employers were offering as starting pay.
Having completed her internship in Petaling Jaya, Selangor, last year, Yeap said she received firsthand experience of the kind of lifestyle she could expect iif she were to work there.
“I know people say that food there is expensive, and I can only do what I can by finding food that's as cheap as possible, like a plate of mee goreng for RM5.
“People suggest cooking on your own to save money, but with work and the traffic jams, I would get home late and be too tired to cook a good dinner,” she said.
Acknowledging that some fresh graduates had unrealistic expectations when it comes to salaries and employment benefits, Yeap said she knew of friends who were choosy about job applications.
“If you say you’re a fresh graduate and you expect to be paid RM4,000, that would really be unrealistic.
“I think asking for RM2,500 to RM2,800 is reasonable for a fresh grad, because if you break down RM2,800 in Kuala Lumpur, you can get by, but you will hardly have any savings,” she said.
At the same time, Yeap said employers could be picky as well, and they should also be reasonable about the kind of workers they were looking for and the pay they were offering.
“Like fresh graduates with unrealistically high expectations about pay, I do know of some companies that only want to hire people with work experience, yet they offer low salaries.
“I think there should be a balance in this,” she said.
Information Technology graduate M. Rajini, 22, said RM2,500 should be considered the acceptable amount for fresh graduates, given the cost of living these days.
“I would like to work outside of Ipoh, so I am currently seeking employment in Kuala Lumpur.
“I’d like to work in the capital because it’s easier to move around without a car there as public transport options are available.
“For a reasonable salary, I’m looking for anything above RM2,500, because I think that would be enough for a person of my qualifications to get by in an expensive city like Kuala Lumpur,” he said.
Rajini agrees that some fresh graduates tend to have unrealistic expectations when it comes to salaries, as he knows many of his peers want to secure jobs offering above RM3,000.
For someone working in the IT field, however, he said he did not think that a RM3,000 salary was unreasonable.
“From what my friends told me, a few of them were actually offered such an amount, but only after they were able to pass a series of tests that were quite tough.
“Of course, deep down, I do hope for the same goal, but I don’t want to set my expectations too high as it would limit my options.
“At this point, I am more focused on getting a job first, gaining the right practical experiences that could lead me to greener pastures, rather than earning more and saving money right now,” said Rajini, who has spent the last six months looking for employment.
He has been doing freelance work to support himself in the meantime.
Advertising graduate Cheah See Cheng, 23, said, by Ipoh's standard of living, she expected a minimum salary of RM2,000 for a degree holder like herself.
“I think if you’re working in Kuala Lumpur, perhaps you can expect around RM2,500 as your starting pay.
“But I think in Ipoh, RM2,000 would be just nice, since I’m using a family car, I don’t need to pay for it.
"I will be able to take care of petrol, medical insurance, phone bill, and food expenses on my own with this sum of money,” she said.
Cheah is aware that employers are saying that fresh graduates have expectations that are too high for pay that and benefits, saying that it is sad that some of her friends fall into this particular group.
“When I told them my salary expectations for working in Ipoh, they ask why I am willing to accept so little.
“But I think it’s okay since it would be my first job, I don’t mind getting lower pay as long as I can learn something and gain more experience.
“Some fresh graduates who have no work experience are demanding high pay, and I don’t think it should be that way,” she said.
Accounting graduate Choo Chien Hui, 23, too has different pay expectations depending on the work location.
She said she expected a salary of RM2,400 in Ipoh, and RM3,000 if she were hired in Kuala Lumpur.
“It’s a well-known fact that the cost of living is higher in Kuala Lumpur, so that’s why I’m expecting higher starting pay if I work there.
“While the food and everything else is expensive, there’s really nothing much I can do about it. Hopefully settling for a job with the right, reasonable amount of pay will ease the financial burden a bit,” she said.
Choo said she also wanted travel allowances from any accounting firm that hired her, as someone in her line of profession would be required to travel from company to company to do auditing work.
“But I’m not sure if this is considered realistic or not,” she said.