KUALA LUMPUR, July 14 — Malaysians received a lower amount of salary on average in 2020 as compared to 2019, the latest official statistics from the Department of Statistics Malaysia (DoSM) showed.

In an online presentation streamed over Facebook today, the DoSM unveiled the findings of its 2020 Salaries & Wages Survey Report, which showed both mean and median salaries for Malaysians falling for the first time (in terms of amount) since the data series started in 2010.

“Throughout the year 2020, the labour market experienced uneven momentum following a health crisis and economic consequences.

“Hence in 2020, the median monthly salaries and wages recorded a double-digit decline of 15.6 per cent to RM2,062.


“The mean monthly salaries and wages received by Malaysian citizens in 2020 fell for the first time since the series of data began in 2010 by -9.0 per cent to RM2,933,” the department said during the presentation.




The median monthly wages for Malaysians has climbed steadily over the past 10 years from RM1,500 in 2010 and 2011 to RM2,442 in 2019.

But the drop in median monthly wages to RM2,062 in 2020 actually set it back to salary levels about four or five years ago at RM2,000 (2016) or RM2,160 (2017).

Similarly, the mean monthly wages for Malaysians had been on an upward trend from 2010 with RM1,936 to 2019 with RM3,224, before falling to RM2,933 in 2020.

Based on the DoSM report, the drop in median and mean monthly salaries in 2020 for Malaysians was recorded across the board, irrespective of gender, age (except for those between 40-44 years old), ethnicity, urban or rural locations, state, education levels or highest certificate obtained, skill level, and in almost all industries.

For example, while Malaysian men have consistently been earning higher median monthly income than Malaysian women since such data was recorded in 2010, both sexes experienced declines in 2020 with median wages for male employees falling from RM2,477 (2019) by 15.5 per cent to RM2,093 (2020), and for female employees falling from RM2,370 (2019) by 14.8 per cent to RM2,019 (2020).

Employees in all age groups recorded a decline in median monthly wages in 2020, except for the 40 to 44 age group which went up from RM2,996 (2019) to RM3,028 (2020). The 40 to 44 age group was also the highest in terms of amount in 2020, while the 15 to 19 age group was the lowest that year with RM1,211 median monthly salary.

Employees in the age group of 60 to 64 recorded the greatest decline in median monthly wages, falling from RM2,272 (2019) to RM1,608 (2020) or representing a drop by RM664 or 29.2 per cent.

While employees in the 55 to 59 age group have always been ahead of other age groups since 2017 in terms of median monthly salaries, this age group had after the Covid-19 health crisis recorded a decline from RM3,096 (2019) to RM2,645 (2020), which places them lower than the four age groups stretching from 35 to 54 in terms of amount in 2020.



In terms of ethnicity, median monthly salaries in 2020 for ethnic Chinese fell from RM2,597 (2019) to RM2,470 (2020), and for Bumiputera fell from RM2,415 (2019) to RM2,019 (2020), followed by ethnic Indians with a decline from RM2,217 (2019) to RM2,014 (2020) and others from RM1,836 (2019) to RM1,412 (2020).

Median monthly wages for employees in urban areas fell by 11.6 per cent from RM2,565 (2019) to RM2,268 (2020), while those in rural areas declined by 14.1 per cent from RM1,560 (2019) to RM1,340 (2020).

Median monthly salary in 2020 also fell for all four categories of educational attainment (no formal education, primary, secondary, tertiary), with those with tertiary education having the biggest decline in terms of amount (RM402) to RM3,499 in 2020, while those with primary education recorded the largest percentage drop (18.3 per cent) to RM1,274 in 2020. 


The median monthly wage decline was also observed in 2020 for all five categories of highest certificates obtained, with a reduction by RM212 for those with no certificate, -RM297 for those with SPM certificate and below, -RM336 for those with STPM or certificate, -RM308 for those with diploma and -RM630 for those with degrees. 

While having the biggest drop in terms of amount, those with degrees still earned more than the other categories of certifications, with RM5,496 as the median for degree holders in 2019 falling to RM4,866 in 2020.


In terms of skill levels, skilled employees recorded a decline in median monthly wages from RM4,468 (2019) to RM4,011 (2020), followed by semi-skilled workers which declined from RM1,900 (2019) to RM1,593 (2020) and low-skilled workers from RM1,422 (2019) to RM1,274 (2020).

As for 19 industry categories including “other service activities”, all had recorded a decline in median monthly income, except for public administration and defence, social security (increasing slightly from RM3,620 to RM3,761 year-on-year), education (RM4,868 in 2019 increasing to RM5,058 in 2020), human health and social work activities (RM3,519 in 2019 increasing to RM3,602 in 2020), arts, entertainment and recreation (RM1,948 in 2019 increasing to RM2,062 in 2020).

About 2020 and 2021 figures

The DoSM also observed that the Covid-19 crisis had resulted in containment measures throughout 2020 via different forms of the movement control order, which affected Malaysia’s economy and saw the unemployment rate increasing from 3.3 per cent in 2019 to 4.5 per cent in 2020. 

In the Labour Force Statistics 2020 released by DoSM in April, Malaysia’s unemployed persons rose from 508,200 persons in 2019 to 711,000 persons in 2020.

Apart from underemployment with limited operating hours for businesses, DoSM also observed that 2020 saw some businesses opting to cut wages or put employees on unpaid leave when operations could not be conducted as usual, but also said the government had rolled out various economic packages to cushion the economic impact.

“The unprecedented event in 2020 had lowered the salaries and wages received by employees in Malaysia,” DoSM said in its presentation.

DoSM said the lower wages for Malaysians in 2020 is a scenario that has also been experienced by other countries, citing the International Labour Organisation’s report using preliminary official data of the downward trend of average wage levels or growth in about two-thirds of countries globally.

“Countries that adopted job retention measures were able to retain employment albeit at a lower salaries and wages and subsequently mitigated job losses,” DoSM said in concluding its presentation. “Malaysia experienced the same scenario, whereby wage subsidy and employment retention have helped to cushion the impact of job losses in 2020.”

As for 2021, Malaysia’s chief statistician Datuk Seri Mohd Uzir Mahidin said challenges for Malaysia persist with consistently high number of new daily cases towards the end of May, but noted that some flexibilities in the various MCO phases have allowed for some economic activities to operate by adhering to strict SOPs.

He also noted that economic stimulus packages to ensure business sustainability and continuous initiatives to pave the way to economic recovery were being implemented, further expressing hope that this would help lift Malaysians’ salary levels for 2021.

“Hence, it is hoped that the country’s economic situation will improve and lead to the recovery of the labour market and subsequently help to bring up the salaries and wages earned by employees this year,” he had said in a written statement at the end of the online presentation.