Human Resource

The Minimum Wage Debacle: Beyond Making Ends Meet

On Friday, 19 March 2022, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob made an announcement that would see the minimum wage being raised to RM1,500 per month, from the current RM1,200. It brought about a mixture of reactions from both employers and employees – from concerns to applause.

Micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) however will be exempted from applying the new minimum wage as the decision for now will only involve private sector companies with a minimum of five workers.

Some had argued that raising the minimum wage across the board would substantially increase the operating expenses for companies, which would then increase the prices of products and services to cover their increased labour costs.

Another argument is that an increased minimum wage will see potential job losses in order for some businesses to maintain profitability. In fact, the president of Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF), Datuk Dr Syed Hussain Syed Husman has described the move to increase as “premature”, and that increases in minimum wages should be done gradually.

These concerns are all valid –  an increase of 25 percent as we are moving into the endemic phase will put a lot of financial pressures on businesses as many are trying to rebuild their businesses impacted by Covid-19. 

Recruitment agency in Malaysia - f8fb40e6


However, the increase in minimum wage will translate into tangible benefits like increased consumer spending, as well as boosted morale. With the current economic landscape especially, the extra RM300 boost  could contribute a significant improvement in the standard of living for many.

There is no doubt that raising the minimum wage will see a lot of challenges coming, and there is a definite need for the decision to be refined – after all, making the increase optional – albeit for now – for SMEs, which accounts for 1,226,494 MSMEs, or 97.4% (as of 2021) of overall establishments in Malaysia defeats the purpose of increasing the standards of life for the people who need it the most.

Until the decision is made and enforced, the debate continues.

Professional Development

Transitioning Safely to the Endemic Phase

Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob announced on 8 March 2022 that Malaysia would enter the endemic phase of COVID-19 from April 1.

“Endemic” status does not mean zero risk, but this will definitely see the easing of restrictions in the country. Businesses will finally be allowed to operate without time restrictions, and the country’s borders will also finally be reopened. Limits on the number of employees allowed in the workplace based on vaccination rates in a company will also no longer be applicable.  In the coming months, we will see employment agencies in Malaysia get busier as many industries; tourism and hospitality especially, are getting a revival.

However, nearly two years in the pandemic, there are several things that require considerations to ensure that we enter this new stage gradually, thoughtfully and flexibly.

Depending on the sector you are in and the way your organisation functions, these are a few key considerations to look at as we enter the endemic phase:


The increased turnover that many employers are dealing with are not the only concern when it comes to talent. With many starting a new job during the full lockdown and may not have had the chance to see their team members, companies should look into rebuilding company culture and building connections between employees through training and development in and robust Human Resources Management (HRM).


With the transition into the endemic phase, people might be required to travel more, from the daily commutes to and from the office, to activities outside of office hours like company get-togethers and training sessions.


The situation will soon be deemed safe enough for employees to return to in-person work, but the pandemic should never be taken lightly. Companies will need to look into their safety practices to ensure that employees feel safe to come to work.


The transition might also require employers to look into policies and practices that may need to be adapted and improved. Will employees with symptoms be required to stay home and for how long? Will there be an option to increase paid/unpaid sick leave options?

Remote workforce

For companies with remote employees, it is also important to look into the hiring practices and operations. Will some employees be permitted to work remotely and under modified or flexible schedules while others are not? Will the employees who need to come to the office receive special or extra benefits? This, again is where human resources management should come into the picture.

The transition into the endemic phase is an important one, and not something that should be taken lightly. Employers should consider the post pandemic phase as an opportunity to reassess, reenergise, and potentially transform the workplace for the future.
Human Resource

How do you ensure that you have the right people in the right job at the right moment?

The COVID-19 pandemic might have seen many organisations caught flat-footed and unprepared to face the challenges at first, but many have since adapted, either by adopting digital measures, changing of mindsets, creating contingency plans, or a combination of those. Either way, it seems like most can agree that future-proofing is the way forward.

This is where Strategic Workforce Planning comes in, where organisations plan ahead for things like demographic changes, talent management, cost reduction and flexibility, and of course, pandemics, among many other factors.

There are many approaches to workforce planning, but all rely on the same key things – setting the direction that you want your organisation to go, analysing your current workforce and what it needs to bring you to the direction that you want, and developing the action plan. From there, organisations can look into their recruitment practices and hiring decisions, which can help them to future-proof their workforce.

For example, if you have an ageing workforce, you might want to consider hiring younger employees so they can be onboarded before older employees retire, ensuring the smooth running of your organisation.

It also means that recruiters and hiring managers now have a bigger role than ever. Because of the number of candidates that they speak to on a daily basis, they hold a great deal of information vital to shaping future workforce planning, from what candidates are looking for, to how to engage a candidate throughout the recruitment process. This information, fully utilised, provides organisations with insights into things like candidates’ preference on working arrangements for example, which in turn will help organisations determine the strategy they should take moving forward. Most importantly, it ensures that organisations have the right person for the job when the moment comes.

Human Resource

A Step in the Right Direction

The effects of economic growth on developing countries are immense – it transforms societies, boosts incomes, and enables citizens to thrive. But as stated in an article by the World Bank in 2018 – growth alone is not enough, especially as we work on reversing the damage brought upon by the pandemic. Paired with good and inclusive job opportunities, a country will not only see reduced poverty but also shared prosperity, promoting economic and social stability.

However, the aftermath of the pandemic has slightly hindered Malaysia’s economic revival, and it saw the entire labour market being affected as well.

According to statistics published by the Department of Statistics Malaysia (DOSM), in the fourth quarter of 2021, the number of outside labour force decreased by 0.9 per cent, to 7.36 million persons from 7.43 million persons in the third quarter of the same year. This is seen as good progress.

However, the number of the outside labour force – which refers to persons not classified as employed or unemployed, including housewives, students, retirees, disabled persons and those not interested in looking for a job – rose by 0.6 per cent. More than half of the composition in the outside labour force is made up of females, who accounted for 68.7 per cent, or equivalent to 5.06 million persons.

There could be many reasons for why these people are outside of the labour force – but the lack of inclusive job opportunities are definitely not helping, which is why when the government announced that they recently allocated RM4.8bil to create 600,000 job opportunities this year under the JaminKerja initiative, many lauded the step.

The initiative, a manifestation of the government’s commitment to revive the labour market by providing more holistic job opportunities, includes providing opportunities to vulnerable and disabled groups, as well as offering hiring incentives to employers.

(DOSM), towards the end of last year has also stated that the number of the labour force has risen by 31,500 persons or 0.2 per cent, from 16.30 million persons in November 2021 to 16.34 million persons. Accordingly, the labour force participation rate (LFPR) in December 2021 also went up to 69.0 per cent compared to 68.9 per cent in November 2021, the highest LFPR recorded since January 2020.

So things are indeed looking up. With the reopening of business operations and social activities, this situation signalled the people’s optimism towards the labour market. This positive progress will undoubtedly see the situation improve in the coming months.