Working in Malaysia or abroad? Malaysians weigh in

With the increasing cost of living, people have several options to cope - to reduce expenses or increasing income.

Siti Aisyah Mohamad
Siti Aisyah Mohamad
22 Feb 2024 11:11am
The trend of working abroad is expected to continue increasing in the future. Image for illustrative purposes only - 123RF.
The trend of working abroad is expected to continue increasing in the future. Image for illustrative purposes only - 123RF.

SHAH ALAM - Considering the increasing cost of living due to rising prices of basic goods and services, people have several options to cope, either by reducing expenses or increasing income.

The current trend shows that many prefer to generate income by taking on more than one job, while others opt to migrate abroad to improve their economic situation.

Previously, Chief Statistician stated that an estimated 66.7 per cent of Malaysians working in Singapore earn between S$1,500 (RM5,330) and S$3,599 (RM12,780) monthly, while 18.5 per cent earn between S$3,600 (RM12,800) and S$9,999 (RM35,530).

Therefore, it cannot be denied that the majority of Malaysians choose to work abroad due to higher incomes resulting from the exchange rate between currencies.

A survey by Sinar found various responses regarding Malaysians willing to migrate abroad to obtain better salaries.

Some agreed that they should migrate to countries like Singapore, Brunei and Australia while others have a different view.

However, each has their own arguments and opinions on the matter.

Author Nurul Amira Roslan, 31, said that sacrifices needed to be made if working abroad.

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“I prefer to work only within the country because the skilled job opportunities offered abroad are actually much lower when carefully compared.

“It is undeniable that the allure of high salaries due to the difference in exchange rates is the reason why Malaysians are fascinated with such offers.

“However, I believe it is not worthwhile to work abroad solely for higher pay. Many things need to be sacrificed, especially in terms of time and energy, especially for those who have to commute, such as working in Singapore but living in Johor,” she said.

Amira added she felt that it was the same if they worked in Malaysia but had to live there with the high cost of living in terms of food, housing or rent, healthcare, and so on.

“Additionally, the country may also lose and lack skilled and semi-skilled workers if many still choose to work abroad.

“This will undoubtedly lead to more job opportunities in the country being filled by foreigners, and at the same time, an influx of such individuals.

“Therefore, we need to be prepared by creating more job opportunities with fair wages to avoid more migration of citizens, thereby harming the country,” she said.

Meanwhile, insurance agent Azmi Salleh, 40, said that when it comes to salaries, many indeed choose to work abroad in places like Singapore, Brunei and Australia as the pay there is higher than in Malaysia.

He said that people who migrated might have their own goals like wanting to pay off debts or save, but they would eventually return to their own country.

“However, based on my experience of working in Singapore for one year and a few months in Australia, I prefer to work only in Malaysia like I am doing now.

“One of the reasons I quit working at a company in Singapore was because I was not allowed to pray.

“I cannot deny that my life was comfortable there as the employer provided transportation and toll money that made it easy for me to move around besides the decent salary but I had to sacrifice time because I had to wake up as early as 4.30 in the morning and for Muslims, the employer did not allow flexibility for prayers,” he said.

Azmi added there were many things individuals needed to consider before making the decision to migrate.

“In the past, I chose to work both countries because I wanted to experience working with the dollar currency, and I cannot deny that it was worth it.

“However, after that experience, I feel it is enough for me to work and serve in Malaysia only, and it is even more convenient for me as I am closer to my wife and family,” he said.

On the other hand, management trainee Annevia Juris, 24 said that Malaysians should choose to work abroad because currencies like Singapore and Brunei were much higher compared to the local currency.

She said that being abroad also opened up the opportunity to explore wider experiences and learn about new cultures.

“Based on my experience, now entering five months of working in Singapore, I can add to my savings compared to when I was in Malaysia.

“I cannot deny that I faced some difficulties, but these constraints were only in my first month of work. For example, making rental payments, transportation, and daily necessities because I had just moved, but now I am more than capable.

“Although I say it is worth it to work abroad, I also plan to return to Malaysia after achieving my original goal of migrating, which is to save as much as possible,” she said.

Annevia said everything working abroad involved sacrifices and she believed she needed to continue as nothing was impossible for those who strived.

Another private sector worker Naufal Zhafri Roslan said that working abroad was more beneficial, especially in skilled fields where one could earn much higher salaries, reaching tens of thousands of ringgit.

“I also often hear stories from friends who have worked there, which makes me consider following in their footsteps one day.

“In addition to salary factors, perhaps I can also learn new cultures, whether it is work culture or the way of life in a new country, which will somewhat help me to be more open-minded and gain new knowledge,” he said.

He said that his circle of friends also said that the technology they used abroad was much more advanced, and he felt that it was an opportunity for him to improve his skills to become a more competitive worker.

“Indirectly, it would be an added value that can be used in my portfolio later on. Additionally, I can also improve my proficiency in foreign languages besides the language I currently use.

“Therefore, I believe that it is not wrong for Malaysians to work abroad considering the offered salaries in this country are relatively low and limited, besides being able to master various other skills when migrating,” he said.