Working In Malaysia As An Expat

Starlord - Working in Malaysia as an Expat

Working in Malaysia as an expat can never be boring due to its plethora of natural beauties that offer numerous options for exploration throughout one’s stay.

There is a diverse selection of work opportunities, and the cost of living is not overly prohibitive in comparison to other places.

Because it has such a noteworthy healthcare infrastructure and offers a wide assortment of international educational institutions, Malaysia is a desirable option for anyone who is thinking about moving their family to Malaysia.

Since it is a developed nation, Malaysia is well-equipped to handle the transition and should have no difficulty doing so.

The economy of Malaysia has made significant strides forward within the Asian area in recent years.

The labour force in Malaysia is advantageous because of the country’s open, state-oriented, and newly industrialized market economy, which is principally driven by two significant sectors, namely international trade and manufacturing.

Malaysia’s labour force is beneficial because of the country’s open, state-oriented, and recently industrialized market economy.

In addition to this, the country is an important centre for Islamic finance, and there is a sizeable number of women working in the Islamic banking sector.

In a manner comparable to that which is occurring in other Asian countries, Malaysia’s employment numbers are gradually shifting toward the sector of the service industry.

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The Economy of Malaysia

Throughout its history, the Malaysian economy has been predominately focused on the production of palm oil, tin, and rubber, with a large boost coming from the nation’s plethora of natural resources, in particular petroleum and liquefied natural gas.

The agrarian and mining-based economy of the region gave way to one that was primarily driven by the petrochemical industry during the 1970s and 1980s, which caused the regional workforce to go through a period of transformation.

Starlord - Working in Malaysia as an Expat
A public market in Malaysia

At the present time, a sizeable percentage of the population in Malaysia is still employed in the secondary industry, which helps to maintain Malaysia’s position as a leading global exporter of electrical goods, semiconductors, and information technology and communications products.

Despite this, a number of different sectors are currently facing a slump.

The aforementioned rise can be attributed, in addition to the purposeful expansion of the service sector, to the presence of competition from other economies that have lower costs.

The following is a breakdown of how employment is split up across the public, private, and nonprofit sectors: 53% of the working population in Malaysia is employed by the country’s service industry, while 36% of the working population is employed by various industries.

Despite this, just 11% of the working population is employed in the agricultural industry.

It is clear that exports continue to play a significant part in Malaysia’s economy, despite the fact that recent efforts have been made to lessen the excessive dependency on exports.

As was mentioned before, the majority of the items that Malaysian workers produce are geared toward the export market.

These products include those derived from petroleum, semiconductor devices, electronics, textiles, palm oil, lumber, and information and communication technology.

The information and communication technology (ICT) industry has quickly become one of the most important growth sectors, and it plays a critical part in the production of new job prospects.

The scientific sector, which includes subfields such as biotechnology, nanotechnology, and renewable energy, is one more sector that is experiencing expansion.

In addition, the tourism business, which comprises a wide variety of travel, including the developing phenomenon of medical tourism, is also expanding at a rapid rate.

Accenture, CIMB Group, Exxon Mobil, HSBC, KPMG, Maybank, Pricewaterhouse Coopers, Public Bank Berhad, Schlumberger, and Shell are among the well-known multinational firms that have operations in Malaysia and employ members of the expat workforce there.

How to Find a Job in Malaysia

There are a number of different routes that one may take in order to start living and working in Malaysia as an expat.

The strategy that will bring you the most success is to find a job with a global company that will allow you to work in Malaysia as an expat.

The expat package normally permits folks to have a profitable living in Malaysia, which is why it is the most advantageous strategy to choose.

People who are relocated to Malaysia, as opposed to those who depend on the vagaries of chance upon their arrival in the nation, are more likely to find themselves in a more advantageous situation.

Caution should be exercised when attempting to enter Malaysia on a tourist visa with the goal of seeking employment, as this activity is very likely to create a substantial number of problems and may even be seen as impossible to do.

If a person does not have a significant amount of schooling and a significant amount of professional experience within a highly coveted occupational domain, then their chances of getting employment in Malaysia under these conditions are quite slim.

In Malaysia, the likelihood of a local company benefiting more from hiring domestic workers rather than workers from another country makes the employment of foreign workers in Malaysia a less likely possibility.

In general, local circumstances in terms of income and perks exhibit a lower degree of appeal when compared to expat packages. 

Conducting research on the many multinational firms that are active in Malaysia and determining their presence in one’s own country is the most effective line of action to take.

In the event that you have the chance, we ask that you send us your application, curriculum vitae (C.V. ), and a well-written statement explaining your reasons for wanting the job.

There are various circumstances in which direct travel to Malaysia could not be easily accessible. On the other hand, these companies do offer a very promising beginning potential.

People who have completed a higher level of school might want to think about trying to get their names recognized by multinational headhunting agencies.

Utilizing LinkedIn or drawing on one’s existing personal network are both excellent ways to get a head start on the search process. There are also more options available.

How to Get a Work Permit in Malaysia

In Malaysia, the employment of foreign nationals by companies is contingent upon the demonstration of unavailability or reluctance of Malaysian citizens to undertake the respective job responsibilities.

Exceptions are granted in situations involving strategic positions, such as those in management, finance, and other related fields.

This is due to the current state of education in Malaysia, where individuals are equipped with a high level of knowledge and skills.

Consequently, it is important to demonstrate strong qualifications, such as a minimum of a bachelor’s degree, and ideally a master’s degree, along with several years of professional experience.

In order to commence employment in Malaysia, it is necessary for the prospective employee to ensure that their employer submits a permit application to the relevant local government authorities.

In order to qualify for a work visa, there are numerous criteria that must be met. In order to meet the eligibility criteria, individuals must be at least 27 years of age and have a monthly income of no less than RM5,000.

In order for a company to enter into a contractual agreement with you, it is necessary for the company to possess a sufficient quantity of paid-up capital.

This refers to the actual monetary value that has been given towards the capital of the company.

The capital requirements for a local firm amount to RM200,000, while partial foreign ownership necessitates a capital of RM350,000. In the case of complete foreign ownership, the capital needs to increase to RM500,000.

If an individual is presented with a contract exceeding RM8000 per month, their work visa application will be promptly approved, and the immigration authorities assure that the work permit will be granted within a week.

Proficient expats possess the opportunity to seek a unique 10-year Visa that is linked to the individual themselves, rather than being contingent upon the employing firm.

The implementation of this novel form of residential permit by the Malaysian government is intended to facilitate the attraction and retention of highly skilled individuals within the nation.

Typically, individuals seek permits for a duration of one or two years, although, in other instances, permits may be obtained for three or even five years.

Following that time frame, it will be necessary for your employer to formally request the renewal of your permission.

The possession of a work permit grants individuals the legal authorization to engage in employment activities within the borders of Malaysia. It is feasible to establish a bank account in Malaysia with the possession of a valid work permit.

Furthermore, those with a work permit may also be eligible to obtain a mortgage in the country. During their work, expats are obligated to pay taxes either in their place of origin or in Malaysia.

In the majority of instances, Malaysia has established bilateral agreements with several countries in order to mitigate the issue of double taxation.

The maximum tax rate in Malaysia is 26 percent. It is advisable for those residing and employed in Malaysia to retain their receipts in order to facilitate the process of filing their tax returns.

In Malaysia, there exists a pension program known as the Employees Provident Fund (EPF), wherein a modest fraction of individuals’ monthly earnings is allocated for the purpose of securing financial stability after retirement.

Employers are obligated to allocate these funds for their domestic workforce, however, this regulation does not extend to international expats.

Frequently, this sum is added to the monthly remuneration. If one is unable to claim it, they have the option to claim it themselves.

Working in Malaysia as an Expat

Business Culture in Malaysia

If one were to exhibit similar behaviour in Malaysia as they would in many other Asian countries, it is likely that they would encounter little difficulties in avoiding any potential harm.

It is advisable to refrain from committing certain social indiscretions, such as touching another individual’s head, as it is commonly regarded as a violation of personal space and an affront to one’s spiritual essence.

Similarly, it is considered impolite to make contact with objects or individuals using one’s foot or to direct one’s foot towards another person.

Additionally, cultural norms dictate that greeting others or engaging in dining activities with the left hand is deemed inappropriate.

Therefore, it is prudent to exercise caution and avoid these behaviours in order to adhere to social conventions. All of these behaviours are considered to be offensive.

In the context of business engagements, it is advisable to adhere to formal and conservative attire.

However, it is generally recommended to avoid incorporating the colour yellow into one’s outfit, as historically, this hue has been associated exclusively with royalty.

It is advisable to refrain from initiating cigarette smoking in a social gathering when no other individuals are engaged in the activity, as there exists a potential likelihood of the presence of a member of the royal family.

This event is not seen as implausible given the considerable magnitude and breadth of the royal family, with their substantial engagement in the business domain.

It is important to consider that numerous Asian cultures are not widely recognized for their inclination towards direct communication.

It is advisable to assume that business negotiations will likely be protracted and may not unfold in an easy manner as initially expected.

Develop the ability to interpret implicit messages, refrain from blatantly rejecting requests, and avoid losing composure in any situation.

What is the Average Salary in Malaysia

expats who are hired by their employer as part of an expat package may be eligible for a monthly wage that is higher than RM10,000 in some cases.

A number of people receive a variety of additional perks as part of their employment packages. These can include reimbursement for one-time moving charges, a car allowance, and possibly even a start-up allowance to be used toward the acquisition of professional apparel.

Although there have been isolated reports of expats earning approximately RM50,000 per month, this phenomenon is more likely to be the exception than the rule because it is so uncommon.

Starlord - Working in Malaysia as an Expat
A cartoon of tourists in Malaysia

It is possible to maintain a standard of life in Malaysia that is satisfactory with a monthly salary of 10,000 Malaysian ringgit (RM10,000).

It is considered a normal income scenario for foreigners living in Malaysia if the individual’s spouse does not create their own money and does not have any other source of income.

One has the possibility to rent a condo that is tastefully furnished and make use of a few Western conveniences here and there.

In Malaysia, residents who have a monthly salary in the range of RM15,000 to RM20,000 are in a position to enjoy a good quality of life as well as a wide variety of possibilities and conveniences that are made available throughout the nation.

One alternative is to sign a lease on a luxury condominium and make frequent reservations at fancy eateries.

However, the vast majority of people do not have such privileged conditions in their lives. In the local population, persons who do not hold managerial positions often have a monthly income that falls anywhere between RM2,000 and RM4,000 on average.

People who work in the service business, such as in restaurants, supermarkets, and food courts, often receive a much lower salary, which frequently amounts to less than RM1000 per month.

This is especially true in the United States. If a person is employed under a local employment contract, it is likely that their monthly salary will vary between RM5000 and RM8000.

This is because local employment contracts tend to pay higher salaries. There is no doubt that those who possess remarkable knowledge in addition to an extensive professional past will be able to earn a better salary.

If a single person were to embark on a trip to Malaysia on their own with a financial commitment of RM5,000, it is likely that they would be able to maintain a level of living that is acceptable by most standards.

How is the Working Condition in Malaysia

The Employment Act of 1955 in Malaysia instituted a 48-hour limit for the maximum working week and mandated a six-day working week.

However, it is important to note that a significant number of Malaysians exceed these prescribed limits and work extended hours.

According to the company’s policy, employees with a tenure of 1 to 2 years are eligible for a total of eight days of paid leave annually.

Similarly, employees who have served for a period of 2 to 5 years are entitled to 12 days of paid vacation every year.

Lastly, individuals who have been employed for more than 5 years are granted a total of 16 days of paid leave per year.

Employees who have completed a minimum of four months of service with the organization prior to childbirth are eligible to receive a duration of 90 days for their maternity leave.

In accordance with company policy, newly hired personnel are eligible for a total of 14 days of sick leave each calendar year, subject to the condition that a licensed medical practitioner, selected and compensated by the employee, determines its necessity.

Employees who have been employed by the same company for a period ranging from 2 to 5 years are eligible for 18 days of yearly sick leave.

Conversely, individuals who have worked for the same company for more than 5 years are entitled to 22 days of annual sick leave.

Following the implementation of the legislation pertaining to the minimum retirement age in July 2013, the prescribed retirement age for those employed within the private sector has been established at 60 years.

What are the Most In-demand Jobs in Malaysia for Expats

Similar to other economically prosperous nations, Malaysia experiences a significant demand for certain occupations. The following list comprises the most favourable employment opportunities for expats in Malaysia.

Teaching Jobs

It is often observed that individuals who are native English speakers possess a high likelihood of securing employment opportunities in the field of English language instruction for non-native speakers, particularly in Asian countries.

Please consult the TEFL website to obtain information regarding current job opportunities in both educational institutions and the private sector.

In addition, it is noteworthy that a significant number of teaching positions have transitioned to online platforms in Malaysia, owing to the country’s strong inclination towards technological advancements.

IT Jobs

The technology sector is experiencing significant growth across Asia, necessitating the demand for proficient data scientists capable of analyzing statistical data.

Programmers, AI experts, and software engineers are indispensable professionals across a wide range of industries.

Banking and Finance Jobs

Malaysia offers a diverse range of employment opportunities in the financial sector, encompassing fields such as actuarial science and financial technology, for individuals possessing relevant industry expertise.

With the continuous increase in earnings and the corresponding improvement in the standard of living, there is an emerging demand for professionals in the field of tax accounting and auditing.


The nation of Malaysia currently experiences a thriving real estate market, which consequently generates a significant need for professionals in the fields of architecture and structural engineering.

Individuals possessing design abilities and surveying knowledge may secure employment opportunities in roles such as site supervisor, senior project manager, or project engineer.

Tourism Jobs

Malaysia has emerged as a burgeoning tourist destination, prompting enterprises to recruit individuals possessing expertise in the hotel and service industry in order to cater to the escalating demand.

In addition to the various employment opportunities available in the hospitality sector, such as hotels, restaurants, and resorts, it is worth noting that the spa industry is also experiencing significant growth and success.

With the appropriate level of knowledge and skills, individuals have the potential to secure employment as proficient spa therapists within the professional industry.

The tourist industry in Malaysia offers a range of attractive employment opportunities for expats, particularly those proficient in the English language, as visitors often prefer conversing in their mother tongue.

Marketing Jobs

Social media has become an integral aspect of the life of a significant portion of the Malaysian population.

Based on the findings of Hootsuite and We Are Social, Malaysia is positioned as the fifth-ranked country in terms of social media penetration.

This implies that organizations across many industries are actively seeking social media managers to cultivate and enhance their brand visibility.

This does not imply solely disseminating clever tweets or creating weekly updates on Facebook. Proficiency in content development, strategic content calendar management, and utilization of analytical tools is essential.

Expat Life in Malaysia

How to Get an Expat Status in Malaysia

In order to commence employment in Malaysia, it is required to obtain expat status. The nation has a specialized Expat Committee that addresses matters pertaining to expat employment.

Prospective expats are required to meet two preliminary criteria: a minimum monthly income of 5,000 MYR and a minimum duration of work of two years.

Furthermore, eligibility for expat status in Malaysia is limited to individuals who belong to one of the specified categories:

  • Key Position: The individual in question holds a high-level executive role inside the organization.
  • Executive Position: The individual possesses a middle management role and possesses pertinent professional expertise and academic credentials.
  • Non-executive Position: Your exceptional proficiency in technical knowledge renders you invaluable to the organization.

The Malaysian Security System

The Employees Provident Fund and the Social Insurance System are the two primary pillars that make up the Malaysian Social Security System.

Both of these programs are referred to as EPF and SIS respectively. The latter is in charge of the administration of benefits offered by two separate programs, namely the employment injury scheme and the invalidity pension program.

These are the two schemes in question. The Provident Fund is an organization that runs a system in which every person is expected to have two different accounts, which serve as a means of paying payments for old age, disability, and survivor benefits respectively.

Investing in unit trusts (account no. 1) or the purchase of real estate (account no. 2), funding educational expenses (account no. 3), or covering medical expenses related to specified serious illnesses (account no. 4) are some of the government-approved uses for funds that are held within the Provident Fund accounts.

When an employee reaches the age of 55, they are given the authority to take any and all monies without first obtaining explicit approval.

This authority is permanent. When leaving the nation, people who have been employed in Malaysia either as expats or as permanent residents have the option of withdrawing all of their funds from their Malaysian bank accounts.

To apply for benefits through the Employees Provident Fund, please fill out the relevant application forms that may be found on their website.

Employees Provident Fund and Social Insurance Contributions

The Employees Provident Fund in Malaysia is a retirement savings program that is open to all people who are employed in the private sector.

Starlord - Working in Malaysia as an Expat
Expats in Malaysia

Membership is automatic. People who are not citizens, people who work in the domestic service industry, and people who are self-employed all have the option to choose voluntary coverage. All non-foreign workers who make a monthly income of more than 3,000 Malaysian Ringgit (MYR) and are less than 55 years old are required to purchase social insurance as part of their employment agreement.

Employee contributions to the Provident Fund are equal to 11% of their monthly income up until the age of 54 and then decrease to 5.5% of those wages after that age.

The first account receives seventy percent of the contributions, while the second account receives thirty percent of the total amount that was contributed.

The employer contribution goes to the employees at a rate of 12%, whereas the employer contribution goes to the employees at a rate of 6%.

Contributions to social insurance are computed by applying a rate of 0.5 percent to the monthly wage class earnings of the employee.

The wage classes range from lowest to highest and there are 24 different wage classes. In addition, the employer is obligated to provide a payment equal to 0.5 percent of the employee’s monthly gross wage.

Income Tax for People Working in Malaysia as an Expat

In Malaysia, an exemption from income tax is provided for any income that is derived from sources that are located outside of Malaysia.

According to a particular tax scheme that applies to expats, an expat’s whole income is exempt from income taxation provided that the expat’s length of employment in Malaysia does not exceed sixty days in any given calendar year.

Individuals who are not residents of Malaysia but who work in the nation for a period of time that is greater than sixty days per year are required to pay a flat tax rate of 26% on the portion of their overall income that is obtained from Malaysian sources.

For the purposes of Malaysian tax law, a person is considered to have met the requirements for resident status if they have spent at least 182 days in Malaysia in the preceding calendar year.

In this case, the amount of income tax will be taken from your salary, and then the difference will be reconciled upon the submission of the tax return following the conclusion of the fiscal year.

Malaysia has negotiated bilateral agreements on double taxation with a total of 70 countries across the world in order to reduce the likelihood of taxation-related disputes arising between the two countries.

On the official website of the Malaysian Industrial Development Authority, visitors will find a thorough summary of all Double Taxation Agreements (DTAs), in addition to further information pertaining to taxation.

Final Thoughts

Malaysia has gained prominence as an exceedingly appealing location for expatriates in search of a distinctive amalgamation of scenic landscapes, varied professional prospects, and a reasonably affordable standard of living.

The nation’s economy is through a process of transformation, primarily influenced by industries such as technology, banking, and tourism, which offer a diverse array of employment opportunities for expatriates possessing specialized skills.

Although there are certain procedures for getting expatriate status and a work permit, the prospect of residing and working in Malaysia as an expat might be highly advantageous.

The Malaysian Social Security structure provides a comprehensive safety net, but the taxation structure tends to be advantageous for foreigners, particularly those engaged in temporary employment.

Nonetheless, effectively manoeuvring through the intricacies of Malaysian business culture necessitates a keen awareness of indigenous norms and a deliberate and tactful approach to the negotiation process.

In general, Malaysia presents itself as an appealing choice for individuals in search of a gratifying expatriate experience.

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Adam is an internationally recognised author on financial matters, with over 694.5 million answer views on, a widely sold book on Amazon, and a contributor on Forbes.

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