Entering the first quarter of 2021, Movement Control Order (MCO) 2.0 was imposed in most states in Malaysia due to resurgence of COVID-19 daily new cases. During this phase, essential businesses were allowed to operate with strict operating procedures whereas non-essential businesses were temporarily closed while interstate and inter-district were restricted. However, towards the end of first quarter 2021, most states were in Recovery MCO while several others were in Conditional MCO with most of the economic activities continued to operate in compliance of strict standard operating procedures (SOPs). Through the transition of MCO stages and implementation of COVID-19 vaccination programme, more economic activities were allowed, translating into labour force recovery during the quarter.
The Labour Force Report for First Quarter 2021 presents statistics of labour force based on the Labour Force Survey conducted by DOSM. The survey is carried out using probability sampling through household approach which covers of Malaysian citizens and non-citizens to collect data on the structure of labour force, employment and unemployment. The principal statistics are presented according to selected demographic and socioeconomic characteristics such as sex, age group, educational attainment, status of employment, occupation and state. For the first time, DOSM has released the labour force statistics by state on quarterly basis to provide more insight of the labour supply situation for each state.
Gradual increase in LFPR by 0.1 percentage point to 68.6 per cent
In first quarter of 2021, labour force increased by 86.0 thousand persons or 0.5 per cent to record 16.01 million (Q4 2020: 15.92 million persons). Hence, the labour force participation rate (LFPR) showed an improvement during the quarter with an increase of 0.1 percentage point to record 68.6 per cent (Q4 2020: 68.5%).
The employment-to-population ratio which indicates the ability of an economy to create employment went up to record 65.3 per cent (Q4 2020: 65.2%). Whilst outside labour force registered a decrease of 2.3 thousand persons to 7.32 million persons as against previous quarter. [Exhibit 1]
Year-on-year comparison, labour force registered an addition of 218.1 thousand persons (Q1 2020: 15.79 million persons) meanwhile LFPR dropped by 0.2 percentage points from 68.8 per cent (Q1 2020).
Exhibit 1: Principal Statistics of Labour Force, Malaysia, First Quarter (Q1) 2020, Fourth Quarter (Q4) 2020 & First Quarter (Q1) 2021
In the first quarter of 2021, male labour force accounted for 9.78 million persons with LFPR remained at 80.9 per cent. The highest male LFPR was posted for the age group of 35 to 44 years (97.2%), followed by 45 to 54 years (95.3%) and 25 to 34 years (92.3%).
Meanwhile, female LFPR which encompassed 6.23 million persons, increased by 0.1 percentage point to record 55.4 per cent during the same period. (Q4 2020: 55.3%). Age group that recorded the highest female LFPR was 25 to 34 years (75.5%), followed by 35 to 44 years (73.2%) and 45 to 54 years (57.0%). [Chart 1]
Chart 1: Labour force participation rate by sex and age qroup, Malaysia, Fourth Quarter (Q4) 2020 & First Quarter (Q1) 2021
Male employment-to-population ratio rose by 0.2 percentage points to 77.1 per cent in the first quarter of 2021 (Q4 2020: 76.9%) while female ratio remained at 52.7 per cent. [Chart 2]
Chart 2: Employment-to-population ratio by Sex, Malaysia, First Quarter (Q1) 2020, Fourth Quarter (Q4) 2020 & First Quarter (Q1) 2021
During this quarter, male labour force went up by 40.5 thousand persons to record 9.78 million persons, comprised of 61.1 per cent of total labour force (Q4 2020: 9.74 million persons; 61.1%). Similarly, female labour force increased to 6.23 million persons (+45.6 thousand persons) contributing 38.9 per cent of the labour force. [Chart 3]
Chart 3: Labour Force by Sex, Malaysia, Fourth Quarter (Q4) 2020 & First Quarter (Q1) 2021
Employed persons rose to 15.24 million persons
In the first quarter of 2021, the employed person rose by 0.5 per cent (+74.9 thousand persons) to 15.24 million persons as against 15.16 million persons in Q4 2020. There were 9.31 million male employed persons which equivalent to 61.1 per cent of total employed persons. Whereas female comprised of 38.9 per cent with 5.92 million persons. Majority of the employed persons were aged between 25 to 44 (59.3%) while youth aged 15 to 24 contributed 15.1 per cent to the total employed persons.
By educational attainment, most of employed person were those attained secondary education. This group of employed persons comprised of 7.78 million persons with a share of 51.1 per cent. The share dropped 3.0 percentage points as compared to the previous quarter (Q4 2020: 54.1%, 8.19 million persons). On the contrary, share of employed persons with tertiary education rose by 3.3 percentage points to 36.6 per cent recorded
5.58 million persons (Q4 2020: 33.3%, 5.05 million persons). [Chart 4]
Chart 4: Employed Person by Educational Attainment, Malaysia, Fourth Quarter (Q4) 2020 & First Quarter (Q1) 2021
During the MCO phase, own-account workers were among the most exposed group who were severely affected during the outbreak following limited businesses hours as the requirement to comply with a strict standard operating procedure. Thus, the number of own-account worker fell by 87.7 thousand persons to record 2.35 million persons (Q4 2020: 2.44 million persons). As for employee category which accounted for 11.94 million persons, increased
237.6 thousand persons as compared to the previous quarter (Q4 2020: 11.70 million persons). [Chart 5]
Chart 5: Employed Persons by Employment Status, Malaysia, Fourth Quarter (Q4) 2020 & First Quarter (Q1) 2021
The semi-skilled workers dominated with a share of 58.0 per cent, followed by skilled workers (30.7%). Meanwhile, low-skilled workers accounted for 11.3 per cent in the first quarter of 2021. The composition of low-skilled workers decreased by 0.2 percentage points from 11.5 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2020. The number of skilled workers increased by 107.8 thousand persons to 4.67 million persons as compared to 4.56 million persons in the fourth quarter of 2020. [Chart 6]
Chart 6: Employed Persons by Skill Level, Malaysia, Fourth Quarter (Q4) 2020 & First Quarter (Q1) 2021
Working less than 30 hours per week, time related underemployment and skill-related underemployment
A comprehensive understanding of the labour market requires analysing additional indicators alongside the unemployment rate1. Thus, the indicators time-related underemployment and skill-related underemployment may be able to provide more insight on the Malaysia’s labour supply situation in line with the current scenario.
Employed person working less than 30 hours per week refers to those who worked less than 30 hours during the reference week because of the nature of their work or due to insufficient work. In the first quarter of 2021, the number of employed persons who were working less than 30 hours per week decreased 91.8 thousand persons to record 441.9 thousand persons (Q4 2020: 533.7 thousand persons). In line with this, the percentage share of those working less than 30 hours per week to the total employed persons decreased to 2.9 per cent in this quarter (Q4 2020: 3.5%).
As observed for the time series of Q1 2020 to Q4 2020, the percentage share of those working less than 30 hours per week to the total employed persons was within the range of 2.7 per cent to 5.3 per cent during the year of 2020. Since Q3 2020, the share showed a volatile trend with Q1 2021 posted a share of 2.9 per cent. This reflecting of uncertainty situation following various phases of MCO during the period. [Chart 7]
Chart 7: Employed Person Working Less Than 30 Hours Per Week, Malaysia, First Quarter (Q1) 2019 – First Quarter (Q1) 2021
During the first quarter of 2021, time-related underemployment decreased to 310.5 thousand persons from 369.1 thousand persons recorded in fourth quarter of 2020. Out of the total employed person, time-related underemployment encompassed 2.0 per cent, went down by 0.4 percentage points as against previous quarter (Q4 2020: 2.4%). The reduction was due to the resumption of nearly all economic activities in compliance of strict standard operating procedures following the implementation of Recovery MCO in most states in March 2021. [Chart 8]
Chart 8: Time-related Underemployment, Malaysia, First Quarter (Q1) 2019 – First Quarter (Q1) 2021
Meanwhile, through Labour Force Survey, skill-related underemployment was measured based on those with tertiary education while working in the semi-skilled and low-skilled category. In the first quarter of 2021, skill-related underemployment increased further to 37.5 per cent after recording an increase since third quarter of 2019. [Chart 9]
Chart 9: Skill-related Underemployment, Malaysia, First Quarter (Q1) 2019 – First Quarter (Q1) 2021
Unemployment rate stood at 4.8 per cent in Q1 2021
The unemployment rate stood at 4.8 per cent, recording an increase of 11.2 thousand persons to register 771.8 thousand unemployed persons. (Q4 2020: 760.7 thousand persons).
The male unemployment rate remained at 4.8 per cent while female unemployment rate rose by 0.1 percentage point to 4.9 percent. In terms of number, male unemployed was 464.8 thousand, decreased by 0.5 thousand as against previous quarter, whereas the number of female unemployed increased by 11.7 thousand persons to 307.0 thousand persons. [Chart 10]
Chart 10: Unemployment Rate by sex, Malaysia,First Quarter (Q1) 2019 – First Quarter (Q1) 2021
OUTSIDE LABOUR FARCE
Schooling/training was the largest share of outside labour force
The population of outside labour force accounted for 7.32 million persons in the first quarter of 2021. In terms of reasons for not seeking work among the population of outside labour force was schooling (43.2%) and housework/ family responsibilities (40.9%).
First quarter 2021 observed the number of outside labour force reduced by 2.4 thousand persons to 7.32 million persons (Q4 2020: 7.32 million persons). However, year-on-year, this number was rose by 2.1 per cent (+152.9 thousand persons). Schooling/ training was the largest composition of outside labour force with 43.2 per cent or 3.16 million persons and followed by housework/ family responsibilities with 41.0 per cent or 2.99 million persons. Both groups have the potential to join the labour market if they are interested in working. [Chart 11]
Chart 11: Population Outside Labour Force by Reasons for Not Seeking Work, Malaysia, Fourth Quarter (Q4) 2020 & First Quarter (Q1) 2021
NEW INDICATORS OF LABOUR FORCE
LABOUR FORCE PARTICIPATION RATE AND UNEMPLOYMENT RATE BY STATE
Four states posted LFPR above national namely Selangor (78.8%), WP Kuala Lumpur (74.8%), Pulau Pinang (70.7%) and W.P. Putrajaya (70.0%). On the contrary, among the lowest LFPR recorded by Perlis (62.6%), Terengganu (59.5%) and Kelantan (55.4%). In the meantime, it was observed that ten states (including three Federal Territories) recorded increases in LFPR during the quarter except for Johor, Kelantan, Pulau Pinang, Perak, Perlis and Selangor. [Chart 12]
Chart 12: Labour Force and LFPR, by state, Fourth Quarter (Q4) 2020 and First Quarter (Q1) 2021
In terms of unemployment, four states registered higher unemployment rate as compared to the national level with W.P. Labuan posted at 9.0 per cent followed by Sabah (8.9%), Perlis (5.3%) and W.P. Kuala Lumpur (4.9%). Quarter-on-quarter comparison, six states recorded lower unemployment rate as compared to the previous quarter ranging from 0.1 to 0.5 percentage points namely Perak with the unemployment rate of 4.6 per cent, Negeri Sembilan (3.7%), Terengganu (3.7%), Melaka (3.6%), Kedah (3.6%) and Pulau Pinang (3.5%). [Chart 13]
Chart 13: Unemployed and Unemployment rate, by state, Fourth Quarter (Q4) 2020 and First Quarter (Q1) 2021
The detailed information and technical notes are published in the Labour Force Survey Report, Malaysia, First Quarter 2021. This report is accessible and downloadable free of charge through the eStatistik application in DOSM web page, www.dosm.gov.my.
DATO' SRI DR. MOHD UZIR MAHIDIN
CHIEF STATISTICIAN MALAYSIA
DEPARTMENT OF STATISTICS, MALAYSIA
7 May 2021
Mohd Yusrizal bin Ab. Razak
Public Relation Officer
Strategic Communication and International Division
Department of Statistics, Malaysia
Tel : +603-8885 7942
Fax : +603-8888 9248
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