Mastura’s sentiment resonates with many young Malaysians questioning whether the time and money invested in a degree delivers returns when SPM holders can earn almost double in some sectors.
A recent TikTok video by user Mastura has ignited a discussion on the viability of living in Kuala Lumpur on a starting salary of RM1,600.
The video, which has quickly gained traction, highlights the struggles faced by university graduates, particularly those specialized in fields like graphic design, who find their qualifications undervalued in the job market.
Mastura, a fresh graduate majoring in graphic design, shared her disappointment after being offered a monthly salary of RM1,600 despite her degree.
She contrasts this with the RM3,000 base salary she could earn in the retail sector with only SPM qualification —a sentiment resonating with many young Malaysians questioning higher education’s economic value.
Patut budak lani malas blajaq tinggi2. Tambah pencen pulak takdak.♬ original sound – Cikgu Hanis
This predicament is not unique to Mastura. It reflects a broader issue where the salaries for entry-level positions requiring degrees have not kept pace with the escalating cost of living in major urban centres like Kuala Lumpur.
Rent, transportation, and necessities consume a significant portion of these meagre earnings, leaving little for savings or discretionary spending.
Experts point to several factors contributing to this wage stagnation.
Degrees Don’t Pay the Bills: Malaysia’s Graduates Caught in the Wage-Gap Trap
Malaysia’s job market is experiencing an oversupply of graduates, particularly in certain fields, leading to underemployment and lower wages.
Moreover, the rapid transformation of job markets globally demands skills that the current educational system may not fully address, necessitating additional training and upskilling for graduates to increase their marketability.
The rising cost of living compounds the situation.
Kuala Lumpur, being a major Southeast Asian economic hub, has seen its living expenses soar, making it increasingly challenging for those earning lower wages to maintain a decent standard of living.
Each state in Malaysia has different cost of living so you can use this as your reference to determine which would be the ideal salary on your future partner. Bank Negara did a study in 2016, the living wage in KL for a couple with 2 children is Rm 6500 month. Just imagine today pic.twitter.com/4xTK4dQEnp— ✨ (@maverick_rizz) November 13, 2022
Redefining Success: The Imperative for Change in Education and Employment
In response to these challenges, netizens have urged fresh graduates to persevere, enhance their skill sets, and gain experience that could lead to better-paying opportunities.
The narrative is clear: a degree alone no longer guarantees a comfortable entry into the workforce; it must be supplemented with practical experience and continuous learning.
As Malaysia grapples with these economic disparities, the story of Mastura and many like her underscores an urgent need.
Systemic changes in the education and employment sectors are needed to bridge the gap between academic achievements and real-world economic demands.
Came across this girl’s video in TikTok. Graduated with honours in Chemistry, currently working in KFC.— Dr Thanussha 🏴🇲🇾 (@DrThanussha) July 18, 2022
Underemployment is a massive issue in Malaysia especially among young people, and the future looks bleak.
Many others commented about being in similar situations.