Despite job market uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Hays’ 2021 Asia Salary Guide has forecast that businesses in Malaysia expect business activity to increase by 54 per cent this year.
Forming the foundation of this belief are steps the country has taken to build momentum towards a developed digital economy, such as an increased focus on strengthening and upgrading basic telecommunication networks as well as an allocation of RM9.4bn in Budget 2021 which encompasses the education, employment, and digital transformation sectors.
Separately, the national digital infrastructure plan Jalinan Digital Negara (Jendela) has also allocated funds to improve the connectivity of schools across the country in support of the transition to online learning, as well as providing a better broadband experience and preparing the country for 5G technology.
At the same time, Hays says the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) has plans to provide reskilling and upskilling programmes to ease the transition of the existing workforce into the ICT industry. The MDEC has also set up various schemes like the SME Digitalisation Grant Scheme and Smart Automation Grant to support businesses in their automation and digitisation adoption efforts. These measures not only support the improvement of digital connectivity but also creates a more inclusive digital society, spurring business activity that could increase Malaysia’s opportunity to be a regional digital hub leading the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
Hays says there will be significant focus on Malaysia’s emerging technology space in 2021, with a pronounced emphasis on design areas. With companies implementing new tech products and building platforms for consumers to access products on, user experience and user interface are becoming critical for these businesses, as is the demand for candidates in relevant product manager and digital transformation roles.
In addition, companies are increasingly moving systems into the cloud, spurred by the normalisation of remote working. Previously, the use of private cloud systems had been restricted by stringent government regulations. With these constraints lifted recently, there will be a substantial uptrend in all related sectors and an increased demand for candidates with cloud security and DevSecOps skills.
The transition from traditional development to microservices is especially notable in the FI and e-commerce industries, creating a surge in demand for IT support engineers who are skilled in Active Directory, end-user technology, network, and security. These developments have further increased the attention on internal compliance of technology and digital solutions, sparking new job opportunities for professionals with diverse areas of expertise.
However, there is currently a tremendous gap between the demand and supply for talent in specialist areas given the inability of companies to train relevant professionals for these important roles in a short period of time. Tom Osborne, managing director of Hays Malaysia commented: “The last twelve months saw a blurring of the lines between the digital and information technologies in Malaysia, and 2021 is expected to continue this trend. This has been brought about by companies moving enterprise systems towards emerging techs and investing heavily in digitalisation capabilities.
“Furthermore, as companies increasingly incorporate data functions into business decisions and grow these increasingly important chapters of operations, talent who can analyse or crunch data will continue to be required over the coming year,” he added.
Osborne also states that this fluctuation will lead to substantial salary turbulence, leading companies to seek out creative salary packages with an emphasis on remunerating highly certified talent with technical allowances. This technique not only circumnavigates wage restrictions but can also be highly advantageous for onboarded employees in the right position. “Roles that will be best rewarded can be found in the market-retrenched technical areas of coding and algorithm within e-commerce and in the digital webspace, as well as in the more niche areas of emerging technologies,” he says.
As the digital transformation of companies across sectors continues, many observers note that the boundaries between “traditional” companies and internet companies have blurred. Currently, for traditional enterprises, a range of new positions have been created with digitalisation in mind, such as R&D engineers in cloud computing and big data. As for internet companies, diverse opportunities abound due to industries re-working their format to be largely online-based, such as online education or online gaming.