The Salary Man’s Dilemma: Selling “Kuih” Is Better Than Being A Doctor?

The other day, a friend and I struck an interesting conversation while waiting for a football match (in which Man U won). It was a conversation about being the reality of being a salary man in Malaysia.

The story goes something like this. My friend is a doctor who studied medicine in Ukraine totally financed by his family which means no scholarship or study loan from the government. Usually in these circumstances people will think that he can choose to work at a private hospital without having to serve in government hospitals. But no, the government still choose to put him in a government hospital for a few years before releasing him to the private sector workforce market.

As unfair it might seem, its not the topic I want to discuss today. What I want to discuss lays in the next part of the story.


My friends parents earn their living by selling “kuih” in the “pasar malam” twice a week. However I was surprised when he said the profit from those 2 days a week of selling “kuih” is the same as his basic salary as a entry level doctor. It made me wonder, 5-6 years studying medicine and when you get back, your starting salary is about the same as selling “kuih” at the pasar malam and you have to work 10 times harder on top of that… kindda sucks. He would be financially better if he takes over his family business.

But actually this is not an isolated case. Nowadays we always hear stories of people who made their fortune by selling stuff such as clothes, women accessories, shoes and art online. Usually it starts as a hobby and when sales truly pick up, they will do it fulltime. Mind you, these are people who once had full time jobs but choose to move onto their own business and why not, with income many times more than their day job, it only makes sense to focus on their business fulltime. In short, opening a successful business is pays more than working as a salary man, especially in times where prices of just about everything are skyrocketing.

Salary in Malaysia Uncompetitive?

Which brings us to the issue at hand, with the current uncompetitive salaries in Malaysia I think it pretty hard to keep people in the job market. But salary is one issue, working environment is another. The satisfactory of work is another thing sought after by the younger generation nowadays and bad office politics as well as national politics doesn’t really help the retrenchment rate.

Talent Corporation

This is the thing that the recently launched “Talent Corporation” failed to recognize. I mean if one only wanted a bigger paycheck, they would just continue to work overseas. The problem is overseas Malaysians just can’t find the satisfaction of work by working in Malaysia and that is a very hard thing to offer. In fact it is something impossible to offer without a total overhaul of how the government and society operates.

The Bigger Picture

On a bigger picture, this is quite worrying because most of the jobs that allow the society to advance to a better society are jobs that involve being a salary man. For example, Scientists, engineers, teachers, police etc. Without these people, where would the country be?

But if there are so many things in the way of job satisfaction, most Malaysians will retreat to survival mode , meaning “if all else fails, follow the money”. At least with a full pocket you can do things that make you happy. Opening a business is one way to achieve just that. Less and less would be interested in working as engineers, teachers, police, etc. And those still interested would seek employment overseas, which is a big loss to the country.

The Bottom Line

I’m not saying doing business is not a good thing, its just that I think having engineers, teachers, scientists etc. is equally important and  in order to foster a better working environment in Malaysia, Malaysian employers (including the government) should stop treating employees as meagre pawns in order to achieve the companies/organizational goal. People need a sense of purpose in their jobs instead of solely working for the money. Many MNC have realized that fact and that is why people are queuing up to lad a job in these companies. Companies such as AirAsia have employed a more relaxed and out of the box working environment as mentioned in the talk done by AirAsia X, Azran Osman Rani a few weeks ago and this has helped them to achieve their steady expansion around the world. Read more about it here.

Until and unless Talent Corporation recognize that, the plan to attract overseas Malaysians back is futile.

2 thoughts on “The Salary Man’s Dilemma: Selling “Kuih” Is Better Than Being A Doctor?”

  1. aa,, saya cikgu dan gaji saya lebih rendah daripada BONUS (xtermasuk untung bersih) ma n abah saya… tp sebab nak dapatkan ‘tempat’ dalam masyarakat, saya teruskan keje ni n tabur budi pada students.. tp minat mendalam dalam bisnes xterkubur begitu ja.. saya teruskan dengan bisnes online.. 🙂

  2. Tahniah kepada Safra. Guru adalah perkerjaan yang mulia. Bila anda berasa lebih yakin dengan perniagaan anda, bolehlah buat business fulltime.

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