The Department of Statistics, Malaysia's (DOSM) latest Labour Force Survey (LFS) revealed there were 502,600 people unemployed in Malaysia in 2017, down from 504,100 in 2016.

Despite that, the annual publication - which presents the principal statistics of Malaysia's labour force for population in the working age of 15 to 64 years old - revealed an unchanged unemployment rate of 3.4%. This showed that Malaysia's economy is still operating in full employment (defined as an unemployment rate below 4.0%).

Digging deeper, it showed that in 2017, 45.1% of active unemployed persons secured employment in less than three months while another 31.9% secured employment in under six months.

Chart 2 - Active unemployed persons by duration of unemployed, Malaysia, 2016 and 2017

The survey also revealed an increase in Malaysia's labour force increased by 2% to nearly 15.0 million persons in 2017 - up from 14.7 million persons in 2016. The LFS stated that this increase was contributed by 286,300 employed persons.

At the same time, labour force participation rate (LFPR) in 2017 increased 0.3 percentage points to 68.0% - compared to 67.7% in 2016.

By gender, female LFPR rose 0.4 percentage points to 54.7% in 2017, driven by the participation of women in the prime age groups namely 25–34 (74.0%), 35–44 (67.5%) and 45–54 (57.1%).

On the other hand, male LFPR dropped 0.4 percentage points to 80.1% in 2017 with the participation rates for age group 55–64 years registering the highest decrease of 1.0 percentage points to 65.8%. Meanwhile, males aged 25-34 years recorded an increase of 0.4 percentage points.

By educational level, the number of employed persons with tertiary education increased 0.6 percentage points to 28.1% in 2017 - up from  27.5% the year before, while there was a drop in number of employed persons with primary education and no formal education by 1.2 percentage points and 0.1 percentage point respectively.

Chart 1 - Employed persons by educational attainment, Malaysia, 2016 and 2017


Of the remaining 32.0% of the working age population that were outside labour force, the top reason for not seeking work was found to be schooling (42.7%), followed by housework/family responsibilities (41.2%).

Table 1 - Population outside labour force by reasons for not seeking work, Malaysia, 2016 and 2017


Infographics / Department of Statistics, Malaysia (DOSM) Lead photo / 123RF