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Should Malaysia worry about the Great Resignation?

The Great Resignation is a term coined for workers who are leaving their jobs due to the salary injustice and have been taken advantage of by their employers. Many walked out of their job without having a backup career option. It is currently an on-going trend in the US and has been happening all over the world. The trend started as the work culture shifted tremendously during the outbreak of Covid-19.

While we see the trend happening in the US, the Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) believes that a similar problem will not occur in Malaysia. Syed Hussain, the president of MEF argued that the data extracted from the employment report states a decrease in executives and non-executives employees leaving their positions during the pandemic.

However, Adilah Zafirah, an economist commented that even with the rate Malaysia’s employment is going, there is no doubt the great resignation trend can happen. She emphasised that the younger generation of employees have a higher rate of leaving their jobs during the pandemic. Adilah also added, since the younger generation is attracted to competitive wages and work life balance, they may not hesitate to be the ones who lead the Great Resignation in Malaysian workplaces. One of the ways to avoid the trend boils down to improving Malaysia’s labor work market. This means salary adjustments for tough jobs, a work life balance, and flexible work arrangements are much needed in order to keep the trend from taking place.

Bank Negara Malaysia reported in 2018 and 2019 that the majority of Malaysians are being underpaid for their value and skill level of work compared to the neighboring countries such as Singapore and Australia. To put it clearly, a Malaysian worker produces output worth US$1,000 while the incentive pay-out would only be US$340. Bank Negara Malaysia notes, to address this issue, wages and productivity must be reformatted in order for workers to earn wages that are commensurate with their level of productivity and growth.

The second underlying issue is having a healthy work life balance for Malaysian employees. According to The Star newspaper, work-life balance ranks near the top when it comes down to employees’ preferences. With current working culture, eighty one percent of employees expect work-life balance as most of them are stationed at home and expect the culture to continue when they return to the office. Monster, a job seeking platform published in their career advice section that having a work-life balance is one of the keys in employee’s productivity and it is easily one of the top priorities’ companies should look into.

Besides good salary and work life balance, Malaysians also look at flexibilities offered at work and multiple studies show that Malaysians prefer this arrangement. A survey done by EY proved almost half of respondents would quit their jobs if not work for flexibility during and post-pandemic. The study highlighted that seven out of 10 of Malaysian respondents say flexibility in choosing hybrid work arrangements will increase productivity and creativity.

To answer the important question: Will the Great Resignation happen in Malaysia? Adilah points out, if there is no improvement in the working conditions and culture as stated above, Malaysia might experience the Great Resignation after all.

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