In order to protect its local labour force from foreign competition, the Malaysian Government has set certain restrictions for the employment of foreign nationals. Expatriates can only be employed for a maximum of five or 10 years, depending on the branch, provided that Malaysian professionals are trained to eventually take over the position.
Companies also have to obey restrictions regarding the number of expatriate workers employed, which depend on the level of foreign paid-up capital. In addition, they can only hire a foreign national if there is no equally qualified Malaysian national for the post. Hence, if you wish to work in Malaysia, it is advisable to find a job prior to your departure. Another positive side-effect is that you can start working straight away, as the company might already have your work permit ready.
Foreign workers are generally only in demand in selected branches, like oil and gas, telecommunications, IT, education and banking, to name a few. Also, if you succeed to find a job, career prospects are usually quite low and salary increases are not the rule.
With the focus on developing its economy, Malaysia also intends to train its local manpower to be able to compete on an international level. This might make it even harder for skilled foreign workers to find a job in Malaysia.
Having said the above, as there are thousands of foreign and international companies from over 50 countries operating in Malaysia, chances are still good to find employment, even if the search might require a bit of time, effort and persistence. Do keep in mind that jobs for which expatriates are sought are seldom advertised and tend to be filled by internal transfers or by using headhunters. Expatriates can also search for jobs in Malaysia using online recruitment websites, the online classifieds of national and local Malaysian newspapers, and Malaysian expat websites.