Working in Malaysia

Although many expats view Malaysia as their ideal retirement destination, there is also a range of expat job opportunities available in the country. Kuala Lumpur, with its proximity to Singapore and lower cost of living, makes for an ideal city for both businesses and families. 

The job market in Malaysia

There are a number of jobs in Malaysia in IT as well as in the teaching, diplomatic, engineering and tourism fields. Expats are also likely to find work in the banking and finance sectors, accounting and oil and gas industries.

Expats speaking a second language will have an advantage, particularly if it is Mandarin or another Asian language. 

Finding a job in Malaysia

The majority of expats move to Malaysia with a firm job offer and contract in place, and most often as part of an inter-company transfer.

It is very difficult to relocate to the country on a tourist visa and then seek employment. Business and work visas and permits for Malaysia are vitally important as the fines and laws regarding illegal work in the country are strict, as are those governing tax compliance. Expats wanting to work in Malaysia will need to ensure that they have the appropriate work permit. This can often be a lengthy and complicated process, but it is normally facilitated by the hiring company.

There are restrictions in place on the number of foreign employees that Malaysian companies can hire. This is probably the hardest regulation to overcome when seeking a job in Malaysia. However, once a company has convinced the government that there are no better qualified Malaysians to fill the position and that the potential employee and their position are of vital importance, then obtaining a visa and orchestrating the move should run smoothly.

It is important to negotiate a relocation package with a potential employer before signing a contract. Typical relocation packages can include airfare, international shipping costs and help with accommodation upon arrival in the country. Employers should also offer help with visas, visa costs and obtaining a work permit. 

Work culture in Malaysia

The etiquette and behaviour surrounding business in Malaysia is similar to that of most Western countries. However, Malaysia is an ethnically diverse country and expats will need to prepare themselves for dealing with people from a broad range of backgrounds, the most common being Malay, Chinese and Indian. When working in Malaysia, expectations and behaviour may need to be adjusted according to the organisation and who one is dealing with.

Malaysians work approximately eight hours per day, and the working week is five or sometimes six days a week. Normal business hours are from 9am to 5pm. Malaysian labour law provides 10 days of vacation per year, but the country also has a large number of public holidays, particularly religious holidays, because of the variety of cultures and ethnicities.

Expat Health Insurance


Cigna Global

With 86 million customer relationships in over 200 countries, Cigna Global has unrivalled experience in dealing with varied and unique medical situations and delivering high standards of service wherever you live in the world.

Get a quote from Cigna Global