Total Rewards Asia Summit 2024 Singapore
Salary increments in Malaysia to rebound to pre-COVID levels in 2023

Salary increments in Malaysia to rebound to pre-COVID levels in 2023

Malaysia’s median salary increment is also above the Asia Pacific average of 4.4%.

Employees in Malaysia can look forward to a median 5% increase in their salaries next year, rebounding to pre-pandemic levels as seen in 2019. 

According to Mercer’s annual Total Remuneration Survey (TRS) 2022, this increase reflects growing optimism among employers about their business and overall market outlook, whereby the GDP is estimated to grow by 6.4% this year, exceeding pre-pandemic levels of 4.4% in 2019.

Malaysia’s median salary increment is also above the Asia Pacific average of 4.4%.

Across Asia, the overall median salary increases reflect a divergence in pay progression between emerging and developed economies, with estimates as high as 7.1% in Vietnam, to 2.2% in Japan, the lowest in the region.

Koay Gim Soon, Mercer’s Career Business Leader for Malaysia, commented: “With Malaysia rebounding from the pandemic, companies, especially the MNCs, are more certain about the future and are ramping up their business activities to cope with increased demands.

"Nevertheless, larger firms will need to keep abreast of the latest reward trends and developments to ensure they have a relevant and reliable talent pool. Small to medium enterprises (SMEs), which have relatively fewer resources, on the other hand, need to double down on their business priorities while ensuring that their compensation and benefits packages are competitive in order to attract and retain the right talent.”

Higher salary increments across most industries

Across the industries surveyed, the retail and consumer goods industries are particularly expected to see the biggest upturn in salary increments of 5% in 2023, up from 4.5% and 4.6% respectively in 2022. Meanwhile, shared services & outsourcing (SSO) and high-tech industries maintained their 5% increase from this year, signalling the relative stability of both industries amidst inflationary pressures and supply chain issues.

Employees, except for those from the high-tech industry, can also expect higher bonus payouts this year, based on Mercer’s mid-2022 forecast. The retail industry is expecting the biggest jump to 12.6%, from 8.1% in 2021, followed closely by the consumer goods industry with an increase to 16%, from 13.7% the previous year. SSO is forecasting the highest payout of 20.3%, exceeding high tech (19.9%), which reflects the former’s growth potential in Malaysia leading to greater competition for talent.

As Koay believes, the higher projected salary increments and bonus payouts for the retail and consumer goods sectors are underpinned by strong consumer spending and the economy reopening.

However, employers are also keeping a close eye on global headwinds including inflation and supply chain disruption which may dampen growth in the year ahead. Hence, the retail and consumer goods industries, despite recording the highest increases from 2021 to 2022, remain the most conservative in their forecasted bonus payouts.

Labour market continues to stabilise

While the total unemployment rate has returned to pre-pandemic levels this year, the survey also found that companies are taking a more cautious approach in their 2023 hiring intentions. Compared to the 39% who indicated the same in 2022, only 30% of organisations surveyed intend to increase their headcount, while 1% (vs 3% in 2022) plan to decrease their headcount in 2023.

Koay adds: “Voluntary attrition is still below pre-pandemic levels for most industries, but gradually rebounding, particularly industries such as shared services & outsourcing, high tech, and chemicals where skilled talent remains highly sought after."

Per a Mercer Pulse Survey conducted earlier this year, among the key drivers of employee turnover this year were:

  • Dissatisfaction with their current pay and the ability to get higher salaries from other companies (77%);
  • Burnout and exhaustion (36%); and 
  • Lack of desired flexible work arrangements (31%).

The increase in minimum wage that was implemented in May is expected to improve the financial wellbeing of lower-income employees and bring about economic growth. However, the rise in employment costs could also add pressure on businesses that are more labour-intensive and less financially-resourced. SMEs especially may respond with cost-adjustment measures such as a reduction in margins and increased productivity through automation.

Godelieve van Dooren, Mercer’s CEO for South East Asia Growth Markets analysed, “While Malaysia has reached a more stable economic equilibrium as compared to the past two years, companies in Malaysia now need to be aware of and take action to review their employee value proposition.

"Aside from ensuring that their compensation packages remain competitive, employers need to consider the broader employee experience – they can’t win the competition for talent based on wages alone. Employers should focus on creating a nurturing yet purposeful work environment that meets both business and personal needs.”

Photo / Shutterstock

Follow us on Telegram and on Instagram @humanresourcesonline for all the latest HR and manpower news from around the region!

Follow us on Telegram and on Instagram @humanresourcesonline for all the latest HR and manpower news from around the region!

Free newsletter

Get the daily lowdown on Asia's top Human Resources stories.

We break down the big and messy topics of the day so you're updated on the most important developments in Asia's Human Resources development – for free.

subscribe now open in new window