Malaysia’s median salary rises but is below 2018 wages

Malaysia’s median salary and monthly wages increased by 9.1 per cent in 2021, but is still down from pre-pandemic levels.

The Department of Statistics Malaysia’s (DOSM) Salaries and Wages Survey 2021, released today, showed that Malaysians now earned a median salary of RM2,250. It was RM2,062 in 2020.

While that may seem like good news, we are still down from 2018 (RM2,308) and 2019 (RM2,442) levels.

The 2020 median salary was the first time in 10 years that saw a drop after steady increases from RM1,500 in 2010 to RM2,442 in 2019.

The salary earned in 2021 was similar to 2016 (RM2,000) and 2017 (RM2,160).

Residents in Putrajaya (RM3,837), Kuala Lumpur (RM3,054) and Selangor (RM2,884) earned the highest median salaries in the nation.

Others in the top six were Labuan (RM2,611), Penang (RM2,353) and Negeri Sembilan (RM2,297).

All the other states’ median salaries were below the national average of RM2,250.

At the bottom of the list were Kedah (RM1,757), Terengganu (RM1,669) and Kelantan (RM1,632).

The survey, involving 9.7 million respondents, also revealed that income inequality between the sexes had increased slightly, with males, on average, earning RM170 more than females. In 2020, the gap was only RM74.

Those aged 45-54 earned the most – RM3,061, up from RM2,718 a year ago.

Those with tertiary education (42.9 per cent) earned an average of RM3,794, up from RM3,499 a year ago.

Those with secondary education (53.8 per cent), earned RM1,797, up from RM1,630.

Meanwhile, those who left school after completing Standard 6 (2.8 per cent) earned RM1,448, up from RM1,274 while those with no formal education (0.5 per cent) took home RM1,315 monthly, up from RM1,237.

The figures today were released amidst rising inflation, coupled with political instability, and just three days before Budget 2023 is tabled in Parliament on Friday.

With the ringgit sliding against the greenback –RM4.64 to US$1 – the purchasing power of Malaysians has also tumbled dramatically in the last 12 months.

Statistics from DOSM also showed that one sector that looks solid heading into 2023 was mining and quarrying, as the survey showed that these industries paid the highest median salary in 2021 (RM3,921). The only other sector to offer above the national average was the services industry (RM2,550).

Manufacturing (RM1,976) and construction (RM1,781) were ranked third and fourth, respectively, while agriculture (RM1,490) offered the lowest.