Job market remains soft in 2017 but small uptick continues in five sectors

Office workers are seen in front of the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur. ― Reuters pic
Office workers are seen in front of the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur. ― Reuters pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 28 ― While all signs point to the fact that the Malaysian job market will continue to be sluggish in 2017, five sectors seem to be bucking the trend.

In the Job Outlook Survey 2017 by, companies involved in computer and information technology, IT enabled services and business process outsourcing, food and beverage, education and manufacturing have indicated that they will continue to fill key positions this year.

Of these, 36 per cent said they were looking for senior executives, 24 per cent want junior executives with about four years’ experience, and 21 per cent are on the lookout for suitable candidates to fill managerial positions.

Although these employers only made up 18 per cent of those who participated in the survey, this is a ray of light for those looking for work in a job market that is not expanding.

These sectors have been active over the last 10 years and show no signs of slowing down but 64 per cent of employers surveyed from various other  industries are of the opinion that the job market in the country will be even more slow-moving this year.

Eighty-four per cent said they would only fill critical positions while 16 per cent said they were not hiring at all and might even reduce head count.

“The overall sentiment is that the job outlook for 2017 is going to be even more sluggish than 2016 and 2015,” the recruitment agency's country manager Chook Yuh Yng told Malay Mail Online recently.

She pointed out that overall job postings received by the country's leading online employment marketplace dropped by four per cent in 2016.

The average number of postings received by throughout the year was 20,000 a day. At its peak, the figure can go up to 25,000-30,000.

The online database has over 3.4 million candidates and over 80,000 employers.

Chook said that this is due to the sluggish global economic situation coupled with the weak ringgit and high inflation rate.

“Regardless of the size or nature of a company, it will definitely want to cut its expenditure when the economy is not doing too good, and the job market is of course affected in the process,” she said.

Her advice to candidates looking for positions in the five sectors is to grab any opportunity that comes their way without haggling too much about salaries and benefits.

“The economy is bad, candidates should not demand two or three times more in terms of salary just because they think they are qualified for the job because it is better to have a job, than none,” she said.

Chook added that local talents were “somewhat acceptable” when compared to talents from Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam and the Philippines.

“We are actually quite okay but if you talk about English proficiency, we fall behind Singapore and the Philippines,” she said.

Commenting on this, Malaysian Trade Union Congress secretary-general J. Solomon agreed with Chook about the job outlook for 2017.

“If the ringgit depreciation remains or continues on a downward trend, we are expected to head towards a gloomier condition.

“There are also opportunist employers in this climate getting rid of Malaysian workers especially the lower income group,” he said, without giving specific examples.

Solomon said Putrajaya must provide incentives for small-medium enterprises to consolidate, adding that by doing so, the industry would be able to face the crisis better.

Chook also concurred with Solomon in urging the government to provide some form of incentives to SMEs.

She advised employers to recruit good candidates to prepare for a possible economic recovery in the second half of the year.

“I advise employers to hire credible candidates now so you are not left behind when the economy picks up because when that happens, everyone wants to get the best talents,” she said.

The country's total labour workforce stood at over 14 million as of November, 2016.

This is an increase of 0.4 per cent from the previous month and a 0.1 percentage point increase in the Labour Force Participation Rate to 67.7 per cent.

The unemployment rate in November, 2016 was 3.4 per cent. This figure translates to 0.2 percentage points higher in a year-on-year comparison.

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