Human Resources and Workforce

Reasons Behind the Trend of Gig Work in Malaysia

The high number of Malaysians who opt in for gig work is raising concerns. What could the future be for the country if it is full of workers who are doing self-employed jobs instead of working with companies?

What is happening?

In Malaysia, the number of people who do gig work reached three million in 2023, which is the highest it has ever been. This represents over 17% of the country’s total workforce. In 2021, there were only 2.4 million self-employed workers. However, within just two years, it increases up to 25%.

The Driving Force

Since every individual’s situation is different, a diverse range of factors play a significant role in shaping this decision. Here are some of the reasons why Malaysians choose to do gig work instead:

  1. Lower Wages: According to the Straits Times report, a Malaysian was offered a 30% lower salary compared to the current gig that he made. The reason for doing the gig work is because he wanted to pay off his debts.
  2. Flexibility: 94% of Malaysians want more job and career flexibility, according to a Randstad survey, the News Straits Times reported. This aligns with gig work, which offers flexibility, allowing individuals to manage their schedules and balance work with personal commitments.
  3. Economic Factors: Stagnant wages, a lack of opportunities, and rising living costs drive individuals towards gig work for an extra income. Even though the living cost in Malaysia is lower compared to other countries such as Singapore, individuals who earn less than RM2,500 a month have to live frugally, according to Rice Bowl and Wonderful Malaysia.
  4. Work-Life Balance: Many workers, especially millennials and Gen Z, prioritize work-life balance, according to a 2023 PwC study. To improve work-life balance, millennials want flexibility. Meanwhile, Gen Z wants a balanced work-life balance due to their priority on mental health, since they face financial challenges, stress, anxiety and worry about the future.
  5. Skills Development: Engaging in gig work enables individuals to develop new skills, expand their professional networks, and access new markets globally. Even though there are concerns about low-skilled workers due to gig work, they can be exposed to a variety of different jobs to improve their skills. However, it is often associated with low-skilled jobs, such as driving for e-hailing apps and making deliveries for restaurants.

Who could help combat this trend?

According to Allo, many people in Malaysia don’t have enough money saved up to cover their expenses for three months. To combat this trend, it’s important for both individuals and organizations to focus on financial literacy and planning. Governments, businesses, and non-profit organizations can also play a role by providing resources and support to help people build savings and improve financial stability.


The Malaysian government’s support through programs like the Global Online Workforce initiative can help freelancers thrive while ensuring decent living wages and working conditions. Also, creating programs to upskill employees can enhance their skills within industries that require specialized expertise.


Since businesses could offer more job stability to gig workers, they could help raise concerns. Businesses could ensure that employees receive fair wages and benefits, including healthcare coverage, retirement plans, and paid time off. This is to ensure that they have enough income to pay off their commitments and debts.

Gig Workers

While businesses have a crucial role to play in this trend, gig workers also need to view gigs as another stream of income rather than a permanent job. By looking for a permanent job, they will receive secure employment and extra benefits such as paid time off and healthcare coverage, which could help elevate their overall financial stability and well-being. Also, they could have opportunities for career advancement.

The rise of gig work in Malaysia is a trend that has raised concerns about the future of the country’s workforce. While gig work offers flexibility and the ability to earn extra income, it also raises questions about the future of traditional employment and the potential for a skilled workforce shortage.

To combat this trend, it is important for individuals, organizations, and governments to focus on financial literacy and planning, as well as providing resources and support to help people build savings and improve financial stability. Governments can support gig workers through programs that ensure decent wages and working conditions, while businesses can provide job stability and benefits to their employees.

Ultimately, it is up to gig workers to view gigs as another stream of income and to seek out permanent employment to ensure financial stability and career advancement.

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