Photo - (From left) Ong Kian Yew (Executive Director of PIKOM); Muhammad Imran (Director Talent Division of MDeC); Cheah Kok Hoong (Chairman of PIKOM); Woon Tai Hai (PIKOM Advisor & PIKOM Research Committee Chairman); Ramachandran Ramasamy (Head of Policy Capability and Market Research, PIKOM).
Despite Malaysia's current domestic and global economic pressures, national Industry association, PIKOM's latest edition of its ICT Job Market Outlook report follows previous reports on noting a continuing positive trend for the sector's salary and job prospects.
Speaking to Computerworld Malaysia, Woon Tai Hai, in his capacity as PIKOM research Committee Chair, said of the current internal and external challenges: "Negative news often immediately generates negative sentiments. The key question is do these sentiments translate into reality? Impact on recruitment and /or salaries (and compensations) are not necessary felt immediately as these decisions are often planned ahead and with strategic intentions but the timing of the negative news appearing in the market can be an influencing factor e.g. towards end of year wherein bonuses and increments are decided."
"PIKOM reiterates that the ICT industry's job prospects and potential salary growth are still positive at least for the next five years as the country moves towards 2020 developed nation status," said Woon.
Highlights of PIKOM's latest ICT Job Outlook report released 21 July 2015 included:
- Average monthly salary rose by 7.9 percent in 2014 underpinned by 12.5 percent industry growth
- 45 percent of new jobs expected to be for Software Developers and Computer Programmers in line with US trends
- First time study of minimum and maximum salaries of CTOs and CIOs
- Higher salaries prompt local talents to leave for jobs overseas i.e. Middle East
- Square Peg in Round Holes - companies continue to hire inappropriate graduates for ICT roles
During the launch event, PIKOM's chairman, Cheah Kok Hoong, said "Despite slower economic growth anticipated in 2015, the industry is expected to register double digit growth of 14.2percent while providing a healthy increase in salaries for ICT professionals and positive prospects for future job-seekers in many niched areas. ICT continues to be a major job market for the country. For 2014, the industry grew by a robust 12.5 percent."
The report also indicated that most employers do not, or are not able to correctly place ICT degrees from distinct disciplines. "If left unaddressed, this (the continued mismatch in talent and jobs) will exacerbate brain drain, curtail innovation in companies and further widen the talent gap. The Malaysian Qualifications Agency (MQA) in collaboration with PIKOM, MDeC, academia and the industries have published the 2014 Program Standards: Computing towards addressing this issue. But potential employers, human resource professionals and job recruitment specialists must also take the lead in matching the right talents to the right jobs and requirements."
Speaking of salary trends, PIKOM's Woon said: "On average ICT professionals saw salaries grow by 7.9 percent; from RM7,142 (US$2,250) in 2013 to RM7,706 (US$2,428) in 2014. From 2010-2014, pay packets have steadily increased at a healthy average annual growth rate of 8.2 percent. Senior managers in particular, have enjoyed the highest pay hikes - 9.5 percent followed by junior executives at 8.1 percent while senior executives and managers saw increases of 7.2 percent and 6.7 percent respectively."
He said that the industry where ICT professionals were paid the most was Science and Technology / Aerospace / Biotechnology, followed by the oil and gas sector. Despite falling crude oil prices in the global market and retrenchment, the oil and gas sector still ranked as one of the top-paying industries for ICT professionals.
The PIKOM ICT Job Market Outlook Report, based on raw data collated from online recruitment portal Jobstreet and other sources, covers 24 industry classifications from four services segments: ICT Hardware, ICT Software, Call Centres / ICT Enabled Services and Telecommunication Services. Also included are electrical and electronics and semi-conductor / wafer fabrication, which are typically considered as ICT Production sectors.
CIO earnings, brain drain
The survey noted a salary disparity of 6.22 times (4.95 times in 2010) between senior managers and fresh graduates, said Woon. This was due to higher demand for experienced professionals with the talent pool being limited in Malaysia. With a tight employment market, this could present various challenges for companies to attract and retain graduates in the long-term.
"For the first time, light has been shed on the minimum and maximum salaries of CTOs and CIOs in Malaysia," he added. "On average in 2014, C-Level ICT professionals took home a salary between RM30,000 to RM45,000 (US$9,452 to US$14,178) per month. However, salaries were still lower compared to many other countries, continuing to fuel a migration of talent to other countries."
Woon said a "brain drain' was indicated mainly to Middle Eastern countries, with the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia as preferred destinations for job related migration. Salaries in the gulf are on average 1.74 times more than in Malaysia. Among Asian countries, Hong Kong and Singapore were yet again as top choices with salaries being 1.58 times and 1.41 times more. The rankings were calculated after including adjustments for cost of living expenses (purchasing power parity).
In the technical domain, ICT professionals equipped with Java, C#, C++, .Net, SharePoint and Web Application Developers remain in demand, while the fast growing jobs are notably IT Security Analyst and Big Data Analytics.
Returning to Woon's responses on current sentiments to Computerworld, he said: "Major ICT related projects especially infrastructure projects are normally planned ahead and often have a long term time frame. Regardless of the condition of the market, they still have to be completed albeit the need to be within budget and on time is greater during a tight market."
In addition, when asked about the possible reactions within different ICT industry sectors, he said: "Large conglomerates, enterprises and multi-nationals including those in the ICT industry will be less prone and less reactive to such negative news especially if the longer term outlook is still positive."
"Large conglomerate, enterprise and multi-nationals, in particular those that operate outside of the local market, will be more prone to react to regional and global negative news, which includes political and economic developments (industries that are currently in the news on staff retrenchment include FSI, Oil and Gas and Manufacturing - these industries are directly and indirectly affected by global conditions)," said Woon.
"However for SMEs (small and medium enterprises), especially startups, such negative sentiments can have a more adverse impact on them in terms of hiring, bonus offerings and salary increments," he added.
"In addition, with the launch of Services Sector Blueprint in March 2015, the services sector in particular the ICT Services sector is poised to increase its dominance and presence not only as a driver and enabler but also as transformer of the economy in the years ahead," said Woon.
"The Eleventh Malaysia Plan (2016-2020) (RMK11) is also positioning ICT as the key digital opportunity, which affords new areas of growth namely, Internet of Things (IoT) and wearable technology applications in businesses and industries, cloud computing, data analytics, mobility and miniaturization of devices. All these will be positive contributing forces to the industry including creating new job opportunities, salary growth and career aspirations," he said.
Taking all these factors into account, Woon said: "Overall as per the recently released PIKOM ICT Job Market Outlook in Malaysia 2015 publication, salary growth is reported at 7.9 percent in 2014 and optimistically a growth of 7.4 percent and 7.6 percent is expected for 2015 and 2016 respectively."
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