FAILURE to address the low starting pay of engineers will contribute to a decline in Malaysia’s skilled workforce.
This, warned Malaysian Association of Engineers president Mohd Sabri Mohamad Zin, will in the long run cause foreign investors to turn to neighbouring countries that are able to provide engineering expertise and resources.
In an email interview with StarEdu, Mohd Sabri agreed with Works Minister Datuk Seri Alexander Nanta Linggi’s recent comments that the starting salary of technical professionals in Malaysia is relatively low compared to other countries, making it one of the main reasons why the younger generation is not so keen on venturing into the profession.
Last month, Nanta – in a recorded speech in conjunction with the launch of the National Technical Profession Day 2022 – said Malaysia needs more engineers for the continuation of development in the country.
Citing that the ratio of engineers to the population was currently only at 1:170 – a distinct difference from the 1:100 ratio in most developed nations like Germany and France – he said the Board of Engineers Malaysia (BEM) had created a task force to study the starting salary of engineers in Malaysia.
In a press statement released by the BEM on Sept 14 last year, it said around 35% of starting salaries for junior engineers were below RM2,000 per month.
Although the starting salary of an engineer had increased in the past 20 years (2000 to 2021), it was not in line with the national inflation rate, it added.
The increase in the starting salary for engineers was at an annual average of 2.9% for the public sector and 2.2% for the private sector, while the inflation rate stood at 3.2%.
The BEM recommended that the starting salary range for engineers be adjusted to between RM2,500 and RM3,500.Weighing on the issue, Mohd Sabri said the low starting pay of engineers is causing the young generation to be less interested in joining the profession.
“The government had established a special task force but we have yet to see clear results and improvements regarding this issue.
“This has become increasingly critical because Malaysia needs more engineers for our country’s development, especially in terms of economic recovery and growth post-Covid-19.
“The multiple lockdowns had forced many engineers to find alternative career paths for survival and they may not be attracted to return to the engineering field, especially if they have found better-paying jobs in a low-stress environment,” he said.
As of December 2022, there were around 172,900 graduate engineers, 5,900 professional engineers, and 9,100 professional engineers with practising certificate registered with the BEM.
This brings the total engineers registered in Malaysia to only 187,900 against the total population of 32.7 million.
This indicates that more still needs to be done to meet the high demand for engineers in the country in its efforts to achieve a high-technology nation status by 2030.