Co-authored by Priya Sunil.

Companies around the world are trying their hand at attracting young talent in their own ways, with some even putting out whimsical job titles.

A School-to-Work Transition Survey, by Khazanah Research Institute, conducted in Malaysia, focused on detailing the transition from school to work.

The survey, which canvassed close to 24,000 respondents, was targeted at youth in upper secondary schools, youth in tertiary education, young job seekers, young workers and employers.

The research also identified some of the working preferences and habits of young workers which employers should be aware of in order to better manage their young talent pool:

A large majority of young workers working in unskilled jobs for which they are over-qualified

Due to the mismatch between jobs and the education level of workers, those with higher educational background than required would be considered over-educated and those with lower than required education level are under-educated for their jobs.

As a result, 95% of the job seekers end up in unskilled jobs with half of them being over-educated for their jobs. They are likely to earn less than they otherwise could have in jobs that matched their level of education.

The under-education of young workers would also have a negative impact on worker productivity and thus, on the output of the enterprise they are working for.


Job seekers embrace mobility but only within the same state

Potential employees indicate a willingness to move to find work, with half of them saying that they are prepared to move anywhere.

However, most prefer shorter moves within the same state and especially to urban rather than rural areas. Their mobility is also more limited between Peninsular and East Malaysia and also to other countries


Low remuneration and inconvenient locations among the main reasons for rejecting job offers

Those who had been previously employed or are currently working but on the lookout for other jobs are more likely to reject job offers as compared to first-time job seekers.

The main reasons for rejecting job offers are that the pay offer was too low or the location was not convenient.

Additionally, female job seekers are more likely to reject a job because the location was not convenient. Males, on the other hand, turn down jobs for pay related reasons



Paid employees prefer working in public and education sectors the most

Salaried employees indicate a strong preference for work in the public sector/civil service and also in the education sector.

The self-employed, on the other hand, list out wholesale and retail trade, online business and accommodation, food and beverage service activities, as their preferred industries—these are the sectors where it is relatively easy to create one’s own employment. Where there is a preference for the agriculture, forestry and fishing sector, the young workers are more likely to be self-employed.


Moreover, status in employment affects what young workers consider to be the most important aspect of a job.

For those in both regular and non-standard employment, job security is what they look for in a job.

However, those who are self-employed consider work-life balance to be more important. In fact, the flexibility to be able to better balance work and family life is often a significant reason why men and especially women choose self-employment.


The report also revealed employers' hiring preferences, summarised as follows:

Age group

Employers typically prefer workers aged between 25 to 29 years old, for skilled/professional workers.  However, younger people below 25 years old are favoured for low-skilled/manual jobs.

For skilled positions, public sector employers also prefer those between 25 and 29 years but for low skilled positions, they would rather hire people below 25 years.



Gender and marital status

 For more than 60% of all enterprises, gender does not appear to be a major criterion for employers to hire either skilled or low-skilled workers.

  • Where there are preferences, the large and medium enterprises choose male workers for both skilled and low skilled jobs. The rest strongly prefer female workers, especially for skilled/professional jobs.
  • For skilled jobs, more than 90% of MNCs and public sector employers indicate no sex preference; where the other types of enterprises indicate a preference it is for female workers.
  • With regard to low-skilled jobs, the family businesses and private contractors strongly prefer male workers.
  • Marital status is not a specified criterion. Where there is a preference, it is for those who are not married.
Educational qualifications
  • However, there are clear differences in preference by educational qualifications for skilled and low-skilled workers. For skilled workers, the large enterprises prefer undergraduates from local universities, followed by SPM holders who have completed five years of secondary schooling, then technical education and vocational training (TVET) graduates.
  • On the other hand, the micro enterprises have lower educational criteria for skilled workers, 63% choose SPM holders. For the low-skilled workers, employers specify lower educational requirements - 85% only require workers who have completed upper secondary schooling.
  • Employers from the public sector, public listed companies and also private contractors prefer Undergraduates from local universities for skilled jobs. Other employers who indicate a preference for TVET graduates in skilled jobs include sole proprietors, private limited companies and especially private contractors.
  • For the low-skilled or manual workers, employers do not have strong educational preferences;
  • Where there are preferences, public sector and public listed companies indicate a preference for TVET graduates.
  • For skilled/professional jobs, employers, especially in large and medium enterprises, prefer English-speaking candidates.
  • However, employers of low-skilled jobs very distinctly prefer Malay-speaking candidates. Language competency is less of a concern for micro enterprises when hiring either skilled or low-skilled workers.

Infographics / Khazana Research Institute