KUALA LUMPUR (July 14): Mean monthly salaries and wages fell by 9% in 2020 — the first decline since the series began in 2010 — as Malaysia's labour market experienced uneven momentum following health crisis and economic consequences last year, according to the Department of Statistics Malaysia (DOSM).

Chief Statistician Datuk Seri Dr Mohd Uzir Mahidin said the mean monthly salaries and wages declined to RM2,933 in 2020 after two consecutive years of recording more than RM3,000.

In a statement, Mohd Uzir said: "Throughout the year 2020, the Malaysia's labour market experienced uneven momentum following health crisis and economic consequences. This had caused job losses as well as cancellation or freezing of new hires and subsequently resulting in total employment to decline. Besides, strict Covid-19 containment measures adopted in the country also had limited the business operation hours and led to the reduction in working hours. Hence, the mean monthly salaries and wages received by Malaysian citizens in 2020 fell for the first time since the series began in 2010 by negative 9.0%."

By economic activity, all sectors recorded decreases in mean monthly salaries and wages.

DOSM said the three sectors that posted a double-digit decline were agriculture (-20.0%), mining and quarrying (-17.7%) and construction (-10.4%). Meanwhile, services and manufacturing sectors registered a fall of 9.4% and 2.8% respectively.

Among the industries in the service sector which concentrated a high number of salaries and wages recipients were wholesale and retail trade, repair of motor vehicles and motorcycles, accommodation as well as food and beverage service activities.

According to DOSM, these industries recorded a double-digit decline in mean monthly salaries and wages with negative 14.9% and negative 13.7% respectively.

"The mean monthly salaries and wages for skilled employees was RM4,619 (2019: RM5,072). In this skilled occupation category, managers received the highest mean monthly salaries and wages at RM6,479 followed by professionals (RM5,301) and technicians and associate professionals (RM3,313).

"However, the mean value received by managers registered the largest contraction as compared to the previous year (2019: RM8,855). Meanwhile, the mean value of semi-skilled employees was RM2,007 (2019: RM2,206).

"Within this category, it was observed that mean salaries and wages received by clerical support workers was RM2,370 while the other semi-skilled occupations category registered a mean value lower than RM2,000 namely services and sales workers (RM1,926), skilled agricultural, forestry, livestock and fishery workers (RM1,547), craft and related trades workers (RM1,891); and plant and machine operators and assemblers (RM1,918). As for the elementary workers, they received mean monthly salaries and wages of RM1,727 in 2020," noted Mohd Uzir.

He said although the mean monthly salaries and wages for both urban and rural stratum declined last year, mean value in urban areas posted a larger decrease of 9.3% to RM3,089.

In the meantime, mean in rural areas reduced with a rate of 5.5% to RM2,086.

"By state, the highest mean monthly salaries and wages was received by employees in Putrajaya (RM4,497). The other states that also recorded mean value above the national level were Kuala Lumpur (RM3,823), Selangor (RM3,480), Negeri Sembilan (RM3,013) and Labuan (RM2,942). All states recorded a decline in mean monthly salaries and wages as compared to 2019."

Mohd Uzir also pointed out that data showed the median monthly salaries and wages recorded a double-digit decrease of 15.6%, after an average growth of 5.6% for the past nine years.

"The median value RM2,062 indicates half of employees earned above this value and half earned below. In terms of the number of recipients in 2020, it increased albeit at a slower rate of 2.1% to 9.4 million persons as compared to an increase of 5% recorded in 2019 (9.2 million persons)," Mohd Uzir explained.

The chief statistician added: "The unprecedented event in 2020 had lowered the salaries and wages received by full-time citizen employees in Malaysia. This scenario was also experienced globally whereby International Labour Organization report based on early data from national statistical offices showed that the level or growth rate of average wages around two-thirds of the countries in the world was on a downward trend including Japan, the Republic of Korea and the United Kingdom."

Observing the situation in 2021, the chief statistician said the challenges persist as the new daily cases of Covid-19 had been consistently high towards the end of May.

Although various phases of Movement Control Order have been continuously implemented throughout this year to curb the spread of this pandemic, Mohd Uzir said, some flexibilities for economic activities are allowed to operate by adhering to strict standard operating procedures.

"Continuous initiatives are implemented in paving the way towards economic recovery supported by the numerous stimulus packages to ensure business sustainability. Hence, as the country's economic situation improves, it will lead to the recovery of the labour market and subsequently help to bring up the salaries and wages earned by employees," he added.

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