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Finding Employment

Malaysia - Finding Employment

While the job market in Malaysia has its ups and downs, there are generally good opportunities for employment. The current unemployment rate in Malaysia is 3.4%, compared to 4.9% in the United States and 5.4% in the United Kingdom.

Many of the employment opportunities come from the tourism industry. Tourism in Malaysia is becoming more and more popular among westerners, so there is an increasing demand on the service and hospitality industries. At the moment, the most job openings in Malaysia are in the tourism industry but there are plenty of other opportunities for people with specific skill sets.

The IT industry is growing in Malaysia, as are the banking, financing, and marketing sectors. There is currently a focus on modernizing Malaysia, and bringing the country up to par with top producing nations. With an increasing population comes the need for more schools. There are more children in Malaysia than ever before, and primary school is compulsory by law. While secondary and tertiary school is not compulsory, more students are continuing their education as interest in technology and commerce grows. Demand for skilled and qualified instructors is seen in secondary schools and universities, as well as in the medical field and the finance sector.

It is best to have a job before moving to Malaysia so you can get a work permit prepared before you travel. There are many resources to help you get established before even arriving in Malaysia. Many American companies either have branches or are stationed in Malaysia, so you can contact the stateside human resource department to see if there are any openings. You can also go through the American Embassy in Malaysia to see if there are any government jobs available. The Malaysia Ministry of Human Resources is another excellent source of information. Some Malaysian government agencies are looking to diversify teams, so there may be a position open for an American. There are also many online job boards that post current and upcoming opportunities. TalentCorp was established specifically to appeal to expatriates in the attempt to globalize Malaysia and modernize the economy. There are online job listings at Jobstreet, Ranstad, and Naukri, and these are just a few. The tourism industry is always in need of English speaking employees, so contacting hotels and resorts directly is also an option.

There are some temporary and seasonal jobs available in Malaysia as well. These include teaching jobs, seasonal positions, tourism related jobs, and entry level positions in several different sectors. Real estate, IT, healthcare, and other types of businesses frequently have postings for temporary jobs lasting 3 months. Jobstreet is a good resource for these types of opportunities.

Employment Pass

To work in Malaysia, you must have an employment pass. This employment pass will give you the legal right to work in the country for up to 2 years. Your employer must submit the application for the employment pass, and it can take up to eight weeks to complete the process. It is only permitted that you work for the sponsoring company once you have the employment pass. Make sure all of the appropriate paperwork is completed and submitted, and that your employment pass is valid upon your entry into Malaysia. There are harsh penalties for working illegally in Malaysia. Illegal workers are heavily fined, imprisoned, and can be deported. If you are required to go to Malaysia before you can get an Employment Pass, you can get a tourist visa. The tourist visa can then be converted to an Employment Pass once the proper procedure is completed. If you do get an Employment Pass while you are in Malaysia, you have to leave the country to activate it.

Applying for a job

The application procedure depends on the company you are approaching and the nature of the job. What is certain is that you should have an updated CV with references available. An expat job seeker should be prepared for a long search, as Malaysian companies tend to prefer locals since they don’t have to bother with work permits, visas, or waiting for the employee to travel. It is still possible to find a great job, as many expats can verify. It might be helpful to join a couple of expat forums - there’s a wealth of information on these sites.

Speaking Malay and Job Seeking

While being able to speak Malay is an obvious advantage when applying to jobs in Malaysia, in many cases it won’t be necessary because English is considered to be the country’s business language. To encourage positive relationships, it is important to learn some conversational Malay, especially if you want to travel around the country. It is best to keep in mind that while English may be the language of business, not everyone in the country speaks the language. Landlords, neighbors, and other people you come across may only be able to speak Malay.

What are the penalties for working illegally?

The penalties for working illegally in Malaysia are harsh, and the government authorities are becoming more vigilant in tracking down undocumented workers. In Malaysia, illegal immigrants are imprisoned, caned, and deported. Punishments have become harsher because it was discovered that illegal immigrants were using other peoples’ permits to illegally operate businesses.

It is important to not overstay your visa as this will definitely result in a steep financial penalty, but it is also important to keep up to date with your work permit. Your employer will probably be aware that it is close to expiration before it is a problem, but ultimately it is the individual’s responsibility. Because it is difficult to find a job before moving to Malaysia, it is common for people to travel to the country under a tourist visa, then find work. If this happens, make sure that your employer sponsors you for a work visa to avoid trouble.

Expat Health Insurance Partners

Bupa Global

At Bupa we have been helping individuals and families live longer, healthier, happier lives for over 60 years. We are trusted by expats in 190 different countries and have links with healthcare organisations throughout the world. So whether you're moving abroad for a change of career or a change of scene, with our international private health insurance you will always be in safe hands.


Cigna has worked in international health insurance for more than 30 years. Today, Cigna has over 71 million customer relationships around the world. Looking after them is an international workforce of 31,000 people, plus a network of over 1 million hospitals, physicians, clinics and health and wellness specialists worldwide, meaning you have easy access to treatment.