KUALA LUMPUR: The mean monthly salaries and wages of Malaysians in 2020 was 9 per cent lower as compared to 2019, latest data from the Department of Statistics Malaysia (DoSM) showed on Wednesday (Jul 14).
The DoSM's 2020 Salaries & Wages Survey Report unveiled that the figure fell to RM2,933 (US$698) in 2020 from RM3,224 in 2019.
This was the first time mean salaries and wages fell since the series of data first began in 2010.
Furthermore, the median salaries and wages of Malaysians fell by 15.6 per cent from RM2,442 in 2019 to RM2,062 in 2020.
The data was compiled by measuring salaries received by Malaysian citizens who are full-time employees both in the private and public sectors.
In a statement, Malaysia's chief statistician Mohd Uzir Mahidin said that the COVID-19 pandemic was the key reason for the decline in numbers.
"Throughout the year 2020, Malaysia's labour market experienced uneven momentum following the health crisis and the economic consequences. This had caused job losses as well as cancellation or freezing of new hires, which subsequently resulted in the decline of total employment," said Dr Mohd Uzir.
He added that strict health protocol adopted across the country meant that many firms had limited business operating hours, leading to reduction in working hours for employees.
Similar scenarios of wages falling because of COVID-19 have been seen globally, he said, citing International Labour Organization (ILO) reports on a downward trend in the level or growth rate of average wages for two-thirds countries in the world, including Japan, South Korea and the United Kingdom.
"Countries that adopted job retention measures were able to retain employment albeit at lower salaries and wages and subsequently mitigated job losses," said Dr Mohd Uzir.
"Malaysia experienced the same scenario, whereby wage subsidy and employment retention programmes have helped to cushion the impact of job losses in 2020," he added.
READ: PM Muhyiddin unveils additional RM150 billion stimulus package as Malaysia extends total lockdown
Looking at the situation in 2021,the chief statistician said that COVID-19 remains a challenge but he was optimistic that the Malaysian economy would improve, leading to an increase in salaries for Malaysians.
Certain economic activities have been allowed to operate with strict adherence to standard operating procedures while various phases of movement control order (MCO) were enforced throughout the year, he noted.
"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," Dr Mohd Uzir added.
In June, Malaysia Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin unveiled an economic stimulus package worth RM150 billion in an attempt to mitigate the impacts of a continued total lockdown.
Prior to that, Putrajaya had rolled out seven stimulus packages worth a total of RM380 billion.
On Wednesday, Malaysia reported a record 11,618 COVID-19 cases. There are now more than 867,000 cases nationwide, and more than 6,300 people have died from COVID-19.