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The work culture of Malaysia is unique; people who work there will experience situations which are rarely experienced in workplaces of other countries. This article provides much information on the general information of what to expect with regard to typical Malaysian work culture.

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Typical Work Schedules in Malaysia

Working Hours

The Malaysian Employment Act defines a work week as 48 hours of work per week. It also states that there are to be a maximum of eight working hours per day and six working days per week. There are certain protections granted to women who work in either the industrial or agricultural sector. They are not permitted to work between the hours of 10pm and 5am.

Normal business hours in Malaysia are 9am to 5pm from Mondays to Fridays. Many businesses and government agencies are also open until noon on Saturdays.

Youth Employment

Malaysian workers are eligible for full-time employment when they turn 14; however, certain protective regulations apply to adolescents of between the ages of 14 and 16. Labor laws related to employees of such ages in Peninsular Malaysia differ from those of Sabah and Sarawak. Those under 14 years old may only work for up to six hours per day and in non-physical areas of work.


Malaysian labor laws allow for a minimum of 10 days of paid holidays in a year. The considerable degree of religious diversity which exists in Malaysian society requires such to be the case. The many different religions in Malaysia as well as the freedom to practice these religions allow for Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, and Christian holidays to be observed.

Employment Statistics in Malaysia

The latest statistics show that the total workforce of Malaysia consists of over 15 million people. Thus, approximately 48% of Malaysia’s population are part of its workforce. Malaysia’s current unemployment rate is 3.3%. This figure has remained relatively constant over the years; Malaysia’s unemployment rate has historically held steady between 3% and 4%.

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Want to Start business in Singapore

How Malaysia’s Work Culture Differs From Those of Other Countries

Just like any other country, Malaysia has a distinctive work culture. This work culture differs from those of other countries in significant ways.


Employee breaks in Malaysia tend to be shorter than those of several other countries. Some companies, however, permit their employees to have a further break later in the afternoon. Conversely, break durations abroad tend to be longer than those in Malaysia because it is believed that longer breaks will ultimately serve to increase the productivity levels of employees and thus the company as a whole.

Meeting Times

In Malaysia, all work meetings are to have official start times. Meetings are typically initiated by one person who will call for everyone involved to assemble, then usher these people towards the place in which the meeting will be held. Before the meeting begins, employees remain at their desks to await the commencement of the meeting.

This is not the case in other countries. In other countries, employees are often told to go to the meeting place beforehand and wait there for the meeting to begin.

Attending to Work Matters Outside Working Hours

In Malaysia, many employees receive messages and emails which concern work matters outside working hours. They are usually expected to respond to these messages immediately. However, employees in several other countries are not subject to this requirement. Some countries have even introduced laws which waive employees of the requirement to respond to work-related messages outside working hours so as to prevent overwork and burnout on the part of the employees.

Working Hours

Most Malaysian employees work a nine-hour workday which includes a one-hour lunch break. The typical Malaysian work week lasts for five days; however, in certain industries, working hours and work week lengths may vary.

However, working hours and work week length differ in other countries. Some countries have longer working hours and work weeks than Malaysia does; others have shorter ones. The lengths of working hours and work week in any given country often depend on the employment and economic needs of the country in question.

Parental Leave

In Malaysia, private sector employees receive 60 days of maternity leave. However, there is no law that requires employers to provide paternity leave. Conversely, maternity leave lengths in other parts of the world differ greatly. In some countries, maternity leave may last for as short as four weeks or as long as one year. Many other countries also offer paternity leave.

Problems Often Experienced in a Typical Malaysian Workplace

Certain problems often arise in a typical Malaysian workplace. For this reason, those working in Malaysia must find ways to overcome these problems to be able to work at the best level possible.

Passive-aggressive Behavior

One  of  the  most  common  problems  is  that  of  passive-aggressive  behavior.  Passive-aggressive behavior in a Malaysian workplace may manifest itself through blaming of colleagues, deliverate failure to deliver on promises made, or even betrayal and sabotage of colleagues.


Many employees in Malaysia have lamented the fact that they tend to be required to work for more than their contracted hours each week. The amount by which many Malaysian workers exceed their contracted working hours surpasses those of most other countries in the Asia-Pacific region.

This level of overwork has also led to severe physical impacts on Malaysian employees. According to a recent survey, approximately 53% of Malaysian employees claim to experience significant amounts of stress due to the effects of overwork, while 12% suffer from depression or anxiety for the same reason.

Inability to Leave the Workplace on Time

Many people who work in Malaysia find it somewhat difficult to leave their workplace on time. Often, this is due to the large amounts of work which they have to complete. Furthermore, some employers become unjustly offended when their employees leave before they do even if the employees in question have completed their daily work hours.

Unrealistic Targets

Many employers in Malaysia have made the error of setting unrealistic targets for their employees. Although all companies deem it important for their employees to achieve the targets and goals which have been set, these targets ought to be realistic and able to be achieved by the employees who are expected to fulfill them. All employers, whether in Malaysia or elsewhere, ought to ensure that all targets set are realistic and achievable in order to reduce the amount of pressure placed on their employees as well as to reduce the amount of unnecessary work on which they would otherwise waste much time.

Disruptions to Employees’ Work Schedules

Many employees in Malaysia are expected to work on unexpected tasks after working hours. These employees may sometimes face punishments if they do not complete the tasks. This presents a problem because such tasks may severely disrupt an employee’s working schedule and also force them to expend much energy to complete a task which often proves to be unnecessary.


Malaysia Work Culture FAQs

How can Foreigners best adapt to Malaysia’s work culture?2020-04-29T11:00:47+08:00

There are several ways through which foreigners can best adapt to Malaysian work culture. Among these is by understanding the hierarchical culture of Malaysian society. Foreigners should also be willing and ready to socialize with Malaysians at any time. They must also display proper values, morality, and ethics in front of their employers as well as other Malaysian citizens. Foreigners are also advised to learn to read and speak Malay as it would be very much to their benefit. 

Do Employees in Malaysia have to work longer hours than Employees in other Countries?2020-04-29T10:59:48+08:00

The average duration of a workday in Malaysia spans for nine hours, including one hour for a lunch break. This duration is similar to those of most other countries; however, it is also common for many employees in Malaysia to be required to work beyond these hours. 

How different is the work culture in a Malaysian Company compared to that of a Foreign Company based in Malaysia?2020-04-29T10:58:04+08:00

There are not many significant differences between the work culture of a foreign company based in Malaysia as compared to that of a Malaysian company. This is because the foreign company is usually regarded as a resident company of Malaysia. Thus, in many ways, work culture in a Malaysia-based foreign company mimics that of a Malaysian company, though there may be slight differences.

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