Why Are Malays Less Likely To Get Engineering Jobs Compared To The Chinese?

Racial preferences in the engineering field?

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A survey conducted by a prominent Universiti Malaya senior lecturer, revealed that Malaysian Chinese applicants will triumph over Malay applicants in obtaining jobs in the local engineering field

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This research on employment opportunities for engineering graduates revealed an interesting piece of information on the matter of employment opportunities for engineering graduates in Malaysia.

Being one of the most sought after and popular courses of study for a great many young Malaysians, the number of engineering students in Malaysia is increasing steadily, with the nation's tertiary institutions producing hundreds of engineering graduates yearly.

The research was conducted by Universiti Malaya's senior lecturer Dr Lee Hwok Aun and Khazanah Research Institute Director of Research, Muhammed Abdul Khalid.

Despite the fact that there hasn't been much hype over the role of race in securing jobs in the engineering field in Malaysia, the research proved otherwise, highlighting that the industry does have a racial preference

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The survey has found that if two equally-qualified engineering graduates – one Malay and the other Chinese – applied for employment at a Malay firm, the Chinese applicant was more likely to land the job.

“For engineering jobs, Malay-controlled companies are less likely than Chinese-controlled companies to call Malay applicants,” Lee said.

Why? The determining factor isn't just the race of job seekers.

The research further revealed that, an applicant with a proficiency in one or more Chinese dialects, has a higher chance of being called in for interviews, regardless of their race.

Image via CMC Engineering

“Chinese proficiency is a major factor and an advantage to both Malays and Chinese.”

Lee noted that placing proficiency in the Chinese language as a job requirement decreased the chances of Malays getting a job.

Disagreeing that ethnicity plays a major role in the engineering industry, Dr Lee wants the government to prohibit employers from putting up such requirements when hiring, as it is deemed as discriminatory

Universiti Malaya's senior lecturer Dr Lee Hwok Aun


"Discrimination is very specific that when résumés for equally qualified applicants were submitted, employers are more likely to call the Chinese," added Dr Lee, during a speech at the University of Nottingham, as reported by English daily, Free Malaysia Today.

While speaking about the possible reason behind the racial preference in the engineering industry, Dr Lee said that it could be due to preconceived ideas that Chinese companies have about Malay applicants.

"Homogeneous Chinese companies may feel that a Malay candidate would not fit in socially and culturally into their working environment.

These companies may also feel that Malay graduates already get preference for jobs in the public sector and, therefore, the private sector needs to serve as a counterweight," explained the senior lecturer.

Meanwhile, medical graduates in Malaysia are quitting their jobs due to their inability to master the English language:

Why do many Malaysians find it hard to secure jobs? Here's what local hiring managers think:

Talking about employment opportunities, the masses think that the government's decision to bring in 1.5 million Bangladeshi workers will affect local job seekers's potential to obtain jobs:

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