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Malaysia’s IT sector still resilient despite layoffs in US
Published on: Thursday, January 25, 2024
By: Annabelle Lawrence, FMT
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Malaysia’s IT sector still resilient despite layoffs in US
Despite layoffs at leading tech companies such as Amazon, analysts believe the sector remains resilient in Malaysia. (AFP pic)
PETALING JAYA: Recent layoffs at Google and Amazon have cast a shadow on the outlook for the tech sector but in Malaysia, optimism prevails.

National Tech Association of Malaysia (Pikom) chairman Ong Chin Seong and cybersecurity expert Murugason Thangaratnam said mass layoffs in Malaysia are unlikely for now.

Meanwhile, CEO and co-founder of Verge IoT, Vicks Kanagasingam sees it as a reflection of a cyclical pattern and impact of the current economic downturn.

Even so, they agree that continuous learning and cultivating new skills are important to stay in the game.

In December 2023, it was reported that Google was considering “a substantial workforce reduction” that could involve up to 30,000 employees.

A month earlier, Amazon announced that “several hundred” more employees would be “let go” from its Alexa unit.

This would be the third downsizing of workforce for the company in 2023. In January, it laid off 18,000 workers and two months later, another 9,000 lost their jobs.

This month, Apple reportedly told 121 employees on its Siri team they have until the end of February to agree to relocate to Austin, Texas from its current location in San Diego, California or face termination.

Optimism prevails

However, Ong said the situation in Malaysia is “not at a critical level” yet.

“While some adjustments may occur, we are unlikely to see mass layoffs in the tech sector in Malaysia,” he told FMT Business.

He attributed his optimism to the different market maturity in Malaysia and its focus on talent acquisition.

“Malaysia’s technology sector is (still) booming, driven by strong domestic demand and government initiatives, which is in contrast with the US where the markets have become saturated and priorities have shifted,” he said.

Ong even expects more hiring in the Malaysian tech sector.

Vicks said the layoffs at these tech giants were part of a 10-to-12-year cycle that also affects other industries.

“Layoffs in the tech sector will be a period of flux and the government will have to take steps to introduce upskilling and reskilling programmes for those affected,” he told FMT Business.

He said layoffs should be seen as an opportunity for the government and the private sector to collaborate in efforts to provide training and creating new types of jobs for those who have been retrenched.

New opportunities

Murugason, who is CEO of cybersecurity firm Novem CS, said the trend indicates that there is a growing need for skills in generative artificial intelligence (AI).

He said that while AI is enhancing efficiency in fields such as software development and IT operations, it struggles with tasks that require human intuition and manual dexterity.

He said jobs least likely to be affected by AI are those rooted in human empathy and physical skills, such as healthcare, skilled trades, education, and creative professions.

“One of the most effective ways to address the skills gap is to encourage more people to pursue a career in technology,” he told FMT Business.

“Upskilling therefore becomes important for one to remain employable and relevant in the IT sector,” he said.

Murugason added that professionals should emphasise continuous learning, become adaptable and adopt a human-centric approach to shape a more inclusive future.

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