INTERACTIVE: What Malaysia’s job market looks like right now and how it’s changing


The future of jobs: According to the WEF, the labour market is also being disrupted by automation and greater adoption of technology with a growing demand for emerging roles such as data analysts and artificial intelligence (AI) specialists.

IT has been especially tough for job seekers since Covid-19 hit early this year.

The number of jobs in the private sector fell by 181,000 to 8.47 million jobs in the third quarter of this year compared to 8.65 million in the same period last year, according to the Statistics Department.

Meanwhile, the number of unemployed persons in Malaysia – which stood at 511,700 in January when the first Covid-19 cases surfaced – ballooned to 826,100 in May, before falling to 737,500 in September.

Within this scenario, what new jobs are available, and what will the job market look like once the pandemic is finally over and the economy recovers?

What it’s like now

One useful source of information on this is the Institute of Labour Market Information and Analysis (Ilmia) under the Human Resources Ministry.

Ilmia’s website shows job vacancy figures among others, and while the data is not exhaustive it gives at least a rough picture on what the overall job market probably looks like right now in Malaysia.

The monthly number of job vacancies recorded by Ilmia showed a steep fall from 50,334 in February to 9,474 in April before rebounding to 24,872 in June.

Ilmia’s figures also show job roles that have the biggest number of vacancies.

For the second quarter of this year (April-June), plant and machine operators occupied the top spot with 11,428 vacancies.

It is a job role that includes positions such as production operators, machine operators, line leaders, equipment and machine operators and heavy machine operators.

Financial and investment advisor was second with 5,111 openings.

The job role includes financial planners, finance executives, financial advisers, bank executive officers and financial officers.

This job role includes sales executives, marketing executives, business development executives, digital marketing executives and social media marketing executives.

The graphic below shows the top 10 list:

Advertising and marketing professional was third place with 2,864 job openings.

Ilmia also lists jobs defined as critical occupations across 18 economic sectors in the country, serving as a guide for planners to coordinate policies to attract, nurture and retain talent needed by the country.

A helping hand

To help jobseekers and those who have lost their jobs, the government has introduced a slew of initiatives and measures which includes those in Budget 2021.

Post-pandemic future of Malaysian jobs

A big question for many workers is whether their current jobs can survive into the future amid the impact of Covid-19.

In this regard,"The Future of Jobs Report 2020" report released last month by The World Economic Forum (WEF) sheds some light on the matter.

The report said the pandemic is not the only thing that’s affecting jobs including in Malaysia.

The labour market is also being disrupted by automation and greater adoption of technology.

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“In addition to the current disruption from the pandemic-induced lockdowns and economic contraction, technological adoption by companies will transform tasks, jobs and skills by 2025, ” said the report.

The report asked employers in 26 countries including Malaysia about job roles which they expected to see an increase or decrease in demand within their industry from this year to 2025.

Their responses were then ranked according to the job roles which they most frequently cited.

According to the Malaysian respondents, the most in-demand emerging job roles are data analysts, strategic advisors and Internet of Things specialists.

At the other end of the spectrum, the report said that jobs which the respondents felt could see a decrease in demand over the next five years included data entry clerks; accounting, bookkeeping and payroll clerks; as well as administrative and executive secretaries.

No details were given about the number of respondents in Malaysia, so it is unclear how representative the responses are in relation to the overall labour market.

However, the WEF report does provide an insight into some of the possible up and coming hot jobs and those which could be transformed into new roles due to technology and automation.

The report said all the employers surveyed in Malaysia aimed to accelerate the digitalisation of work processes.

“That means that some jobs that have been lost will never come back, and those that do will require new ways of working and new skills, ” the report said, adding that tasks, jobs and skills will be transformed by 2025 due to greater technological adoption by companies.

The report said 86% of Malaysian businesses surveyed indicated that they are set to hire new permanent staff with skills relevant to new technologies.

Employment portal JobStreet Malaysia country manager Gan Bock Herm when asked about the WEF report findings said there was a growing demand for emerging roles such as data analysts, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, robotics and cybersecurity specialists.

“JobStreet foresees that these percentages for ‘digital first’ skills and expertise could increase even more due to rising demand for digital tools and processes, ” he said, noting that the rising demand for digitalisation in companies has been accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Hence, there is an urgent need for people to upskill themselves with knowledge of digital technologies coupled with digital literacy and transferable skills, ” he added.

Gan said JobStreet’s Covid-19 Job Report indicates the top three industries from the 74% employers expected to employ new hires in the next six months is led by IT, followed by manufacturing and banking/financial services.

The WEF report said most of the local firms surveyed said they expect that their existing employees pick up the skills on the job, with 62% saying that they will conduct “strategic redundancies” of staff who lack the skills to use new technologies.

The WEF report also asked respondents about worker skills they consider to be in high demand.

For Malaysian employers, emotional intelligence landed in first place.

Second is creativity, originality and initiative; followed by analytical thinking and innovation (3rd); technology design and programming (4th); and complex problem-solving (5th).

In terms of reskilling and upskilling their workers, Malaysian companies said that their number one focus was training workers to develop better analytical thinking and innovation.

This is followed by active learning and learning strategies; leadership and social influence; technology use, monitoring and control; and critical thinking and analysis.

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