The Best And Worst Industries To Work For In Malaysia 2017

Mar 31, 2017 9 Min Read
man and woman preparing in their notebooks while sitting

‘The next 30 years are critical for the world.’

Those were the words delivered by Jack Ma, founder of renowned e-commerce giant, Alibaba, during a recent interview.

He went on to say that “every technological revolution takes about 50 years.” The last two decades saw the rise of eBay, Facebook, Alibaba and Google. While this is good, he said the world now needs to embrace “the implications of this technology over the next 30 years.”

Daunting times ahead? Indeed. But it is all for good.

What Ma was referring to is the Fourth Industrial Revolution – also known as Industry 4.0 – that is already taking the world by storm.

The World Economic Forum (WEF) in its Future of Jobs report, characterises Industry 4.0 as the developments of genetics, artificial intelligence, networked devices, robotics, nanotechnology, 3D printing and other smart technologies.

We would have come across numerous international articles and reports on growing and emerging industries, jobs to look out for, as well as the skills needed for these jobs. While it’s great to understand the changes that are about to unfold in the employment landscape from a global perspective, this does not necessarily paint an accurate picture of job and industry trends in Malaysia.

This week, Leaderonomics zooms in on South-East Asian (SEA) statistics in the WEF report and approach local recruitment specialists and consulting groups to help you prepare for a volatile and complex career journey ahead.

What’s driving this revolution?

The last industrial revolution saw the introduction of digital technology, the Internet and renewable energies. The growth of mobile internet and cloud technology has largely contributed to this new wave of change. See Figure 1.

Drivers of change in SEA countries. Source Future of Jobs Survey, WEF.

This new wave has in one way or another impacted Malaysia’s economic cycle, resulting in a robust transformation of the corporate landscape.

If for instance, a certain industry is doing well economically, demand for industry experts will continue to rise and vice versa, according to ManpowerGroup Malaysia. Thus, some jobs and skills will cease to be relevant, and others will enjoy an upward trajectory.

Hot industries in 2017!

These are a few possible explanations as to why a lot of businesses were impacted last year: the dawn of Industry 4.0 combined with Malaysia’s sluggish economy; the implementation of the goods and services tax (GST); and the rising cost of living.

The country’s strongest industries, such as manufacturing, construction, wholesale and retail trade, as well as the service sector, recorded a net balance of -5.8%, -8.3%, -31.5%, and -8.9% respectively in Q4 last year, according to the Department of Statistics. The current unemployment rate stands at 3.5% (a slight increase of 0.1% from December 2015) for a working population of over 14 million.

However, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak announced – at the recent 2017 Global Transformation Forum – an increase in foreign investments, which translates to more business partnerships. This is considered a sign of “modest economic recovery”.

Here is a rundown of the industries (in no particular order) that are expected to enjoy exponential growth this year, based on data collected from Robert Walters Malaysia, ManpowerGroup Malaysia, Hays Malaysia, Human Resources Online and WEF.

1. Information Technology (IT)

Organisations in Malaysia are already reinventing themselves to embrace digitisation, so it comes as no surprise that this field is observing – now and in the future – a steady and strong demand. Software development, data centres, big data analytics and cloud computing are rapidly developing areas.

2. Sales and marketing

Kimberlyn Lu, a director at Robert Walters Malaysia, says, “One thing that I find universal, even when times are good or bad, is the hiring of salespeople. Because at the end of the day, you need them to push products out. Whereas for an operational role, you can maybe get someone to double-hat or rethink if the position is needed. But sales is sales.”

3. Banking and finance

First, there was the enactment of the Central Bank of Malaysia Act 2009 and Financial Services and Islamic Financial Services Acts of 2013 which led to stricter legal and regulatory requirements. Then, there were continued and consistent efforts to strengthen risk management, governance and effective supervision. A combination of the two has resulted in a growing demand in risk, compliance, governance and audit roles in this sector.

4. Global shared services

It was reported that more than 350 foreign and multinational companies have set up shared services centres here in Malaysia, proving this sector’s growth capacity while offering a wide-range of job opportunities. Robert Walters revealed that the high demand for finance and IT professionals could also be attributed to the shared services sector.

5. E-commerce

According to a Top Markets report, e-commerce adoption rates in Malaysia make up 70% of the population, and this is partly due to the government’s effort in pushing for online businesses. Job seekers can definitely look towards this field, as the sector is expected to grow by 34% this year to US$3.8bil, BMI Research reported. What job seekers may be interested to know is that Alibaba intends to set up a regional distribution hub here, which can only mean more job opportunities.

6. Supply chain

Supply chain includes transportation and logistics. This industry will continue to grow, as Malaysia is strategically located and has easy access to regional resources and supply chains within SEA.

Industries to be cautious of in 2017

1. Oil and gas

This is not news to us Malaysians; according to a PwC report, “with prices falling over 60% from highs in 2014 and remaining range-bound between US$35 and 45 per barrel as at time of writing (May 2016), maintaining the momentum of upstream growth will be challenging.” Thus, companies like Petronas have been forced to retrench employees and downsize departments to make up for declining revenues.

2. Retail

DoSM reported that business performance for wholesale and retail trade is expected to continue declining until June 2017, with a net balance of -11.8%. This could partly be caused by the implementation of GST in 2015. However, retail is considered a recession-proof industry, according to Robert Walters, as there will always be consumer demand. Plus, a lot of retail businesses have embraced e-commerce of late, in tandem with the current consumerism trend.

3. Construction

Similar to retail, the construction sector faces a negative outlook for the first half of the year. However, an increase in the value of construction work (RM32.6bil by the fourth quarter of 2016) and RM260bil pumped into development expenditure by the government, set a positive and sustainable outlook for the industry.

Jobs that will continue to see demand by 2025

ManpowerGroup Malaysia’s country manager, Sam Haggag says, “Jobs that cannot be done by robots or artificial intelligence are the ones that will be in constant demand. These basically include non-repetitive blue-collar jobs like sanitation workers, police, gardeners and skilled traders.

Traditional white-collar jobs (medical, legal and financial) as well as digital or IT-related jobs, including content creators, data scientists and IT professionals will continue to stay in demand for the next decade.

“Organisations and individuals who find the right balance of technology, talent and human connection will continue to thrive,” he added.

Related post: Are You Employable For The Future?

Jobs that will diminish by 2025

Repetitive blue-collar jobs, such as those found in the manufacturing sector, will diminish over time. Data from DoSM shows that the increase in the number of employees in manufacturing remains small, but productivity saw a rather big jump. ManpowerGroup says that this was due to the rise in automation – an apparent effect of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

White-collar jobs that will cease to exist are middlemen, agents, entry-level accountants and tellers, to name a few.

In Robert Walters’ point of view, non-revenue generating roles, and roles that can be automated are things that employers are beginning to think about removing.

They gave an example of the banking and finance sector, where clients are a bit more “cautious” about back-end, non-sales or non-frontline roles.

Clients are looking at whether they can automate or digitalise processes such as data entry to save operational costs.

White-collar jobs that will cease to exist include middlemen, agents, entry-level accountants and tellers, to name a few.

Statistics from the Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) showed that back in 2015, about 18,000 people from the banking line lost their jobs due to the introduction of “disruptive technology”, where more banks adopt online transactions.

Evolving demands

Looking at existing skillsets and how things are rapidly changing, 50% of the subject knowledge gained by an individual at the start of their four-year degree could potentially become irrelevant upon graduation.

To address this, it is important for an individual to possess learnability. According to ManpowerGroup, learnability is the desire and ability to quickly grow and adapt to remain relevant. Individuals who are willing to learn, have the ability to adapt quickly and are versatile, rank higher on the employability scale in today’s dynamic corporate landscape.

As jobs become more data-focused, individuals are expected to possess strong analytical and interpersonal skills, according to Hays Malaysia’s regional director, Tom Osborne.

“Client servicing roles in the retail banking sector are increasingly being morphed as relationship managers are required to interpret software-generated results and make sound recommendations to add value to the relationship.

“As programmes and software become more sophisticated, candidates who possess analytical skills to interpret real-time results and strong soft skills to engage with the client will be highly-prized.”

Robert Walters revealed that digital knowledge and experience are now “nice-to-have”. With the growth of e-commerce, experience in digital sales and marketing is in high-demand. Take the retail sector – especially hypermarkets and apparel – for instance: quite a number have embraced online platforms to perform transactions and they certainly require digital transformation experts.

In manufacturing, employers are now looking for those with experience and knowledge in lean Six Sigma (simplified business processes which eliminates the need for redundant roles and resources) and process improvements as they are beginning to look at ways to manage operational costs.

Bringing it all together

Almost every occupation out there is and will be impacted by the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the state of the economy. Roles are changing even faster than we realise, and if we continue to sit idly, we may not have a job in the future.

It is up to the organisation (and individual) to determine the skills and knowledge needed in our respective industries and make an effort to upskill, reskill and even multi-skill if they wish to remain market-worthy. Otherwise, we will be competing with robots and AI for jobs, and we know who would win the race, especially when employers are looking at opportunities to cut costs.

Share This


Tags: Women & Leadership

Prethiba is passionate about impacting people through the written word. She believes that our lives are solely written by us, and thus the power to change for the better lies with us.

You May Also Like


Web App Security in Payroll Platforms: Top 7 Insights for Entrepreneurs to Protect Business Information

Web app security in payroll platforms is important for allowing users to maintain their trust and protect business information. Processing payrolls involves a large amount of personal data and web app security should be your priority.

Sep 04, 2023 6 Min Read


Change and Disruption: Fight It or Embrace It?

Be prepared for change, make real change, adapt to change because change is a necessity.

Nov 14, 2019 9 Min Video

Be a Leader's Digest Reader