Malaysia boasts one of the most vibrant economies in Southeast Asia, offering some great opportunities for highly skilled foreign workers in a range of different industries

Job market

The economy in Malaysia is growing at a steady pace, having transformed itself over the past 30 years from a producer of raw materials to a vast, multi-industry and innovation-based economy. It is now seen as a role model for other developing nations.

More than half of the country’s labour force is based in the tertiary sector, also known as the services sector. This is followed by industry, which is made up of the lucrative oil, gas and biotechnology sectors.

While industries such as medical technology, pharmaceuticals and electronics and semi-conductors are on the rise, export is an area currently in decline.

Some of the major companies based here include:

  • Axiata;
  • CIMB;
  • Maxis;
  • Maybank;
  • PBBank.

There are some labour shortages in the country, with growth outstripping the supply of skilled workers in certain areas of the Malaysian job market. These include:

  • media and communications;
  • property and construction;
  • tourism and hospitality.

In addition, there are some skills gaps that have been reported by companies across the country, who state they are in need of more candidates with:

  • foreign language skills;
  • IT skills;
  • soft skills like motivation, communication skills, time management and adaptability;
  • work experience.

When it comes to finding graduate jobs in Malaysia, those from the UK will need to have a work permit and an employer willing to sponsor them and make an application on their behalf. As many qualified Malaysian students graduate each year, you will also find that competition for job vacancies is high.

Job vacancies

Search for jobs in Malaysia at:

Teaching in Malaysia

The Malaysian Ministry of Education is committed towards the up-skilling of primary English teachers in the country, with a new English curriculum now in place. Therefore, you will find there is a steady demand for teachers in Malaysia.

If you are a native English speaker looking for teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL) jobs, and already have a relevant Bachelors degree, a 120-hour TEFL certificate and some teaching experience, you should be able to find work here. Many schools and agencies advertise their positions online, so be sure to visit the following sites:

Internships and work experience in Malaysia

It is not always easy to find work experience in the country as, other than larger organisations, not all employers offer formal opportunities.

However, you may find details of some available work experience and internships at Graduan, Malaysia’s leading career guidance and employment resource for new graduates.

In addition to the above, sending speculative applications might help your chances of securing work experience.

Internships and summer work placements for students can also be arranged by:

  • AIESEC UK – for students and recent graduates;
  • IAESTE UK – for science, engineering and applied arts students.

Volunteering in Malaysia

A great way of improving your CV and gaining work experience is by undertaking voluntary work. There are plenty of opportunities to volunteer in Malaysia, many of which offer you the chance to help in conservation. However, there are also options to work on community projects.

Some volunteering organisations that list Malaysia as a destination include:

Language requirements

Malay – officially known as Bahasa Malaysia – is the official language of Malaysia and is also spoken in neighbouring Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand and Brunei.

Despite this, the majority of the population have English as their second language, as it is a compulsory subject in all schools. As a result, most of the population are at least conversational in English, meaning you won’t necessarily need to be proficient in Malay to secure a job.

However, make sure you check the specific criteria requested for the job role you are interested to clarify the language requirements.

Malaysian visas and immigration

It is important for foreigners to follow the strict Malaysian immigration laws that exist if they want to work in Malaysia.

The government is reluctant to allow foreign workers into the country, concerned that it will reduce the job prospects of Malaysian nationals. In most cases, if you wish to work for a Malaysian company, the organisation must be able to prove that a national is unwilling or unable to do the job.

Once you have a job offer, the firm in question must then apply to the Immigration Department of Malaysia for a work permit, of which there are three: an employment pass; a professional visit pass; and a temporary employment pass.

Each type of pass has its own criteria for acceptance, with a number of stipulations that must be met in order to qualify.

Numerous documents are also required to apply for an employment pass, so to ensure your employer has everything it needs, visit the Immigration Department of Malaysia .

How to explain your UK qualifications to employers

With the Malaysian Qualifications Framework in place, students with UK qualifications shouldn’t have too many issues explaining these to their employers. Higher education providers in the country already recognise the qualification framework of England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

However, if you do encounter any problems, ENIC-NARIC, with the support of UNESCO, has provided information and resources for recognition purposes in the Asia-Pacific region.

Working conditions

In Malaysia, most offices are open during the normal working hours of 9am-5pm, Monday to Friday.

A minimum of 10 days paid holidays per year have been prescribed by the Malaysian Labour Law. While this is fairly low, there are quite a number of religious holidays observed too.

If you are planning on remaining in Malaysia for more than 182 days in a year, you will be considered a resident under Malaysian tax law. This means you will be required to pay taxes. To register for a tax number and pay your tax online, visit the Malaysian Inland Revenue Board (IRBM).