On 22 February, Malaysian Pay Gap came into existence with a post on Instagram stating that “Malaysia’s median salary increase is below the Asia Pacific average of 5.4%”.
Then, the account proceeded to post screenshots of DMs that revealed anonymous employees’ job positions and earnings.
It has barely been a week since the account’s creation, and it has already garnered over 100K followers. When Vulcan Post interviewed its founder last Friday, the follower count had just tipped over 40K.
It seems that employees in Malaysia are curious to learn about the salaries of others and even contribute to the conversation themselves.
While Malaysian Pay Gap’s advocacy for pay transparency prioritises employees’ wellbeing and betterment, though, another side of the story remains murky—how is this Instagram account impacting employers?
The pros and cons of pay transparency
Conversations about money and wages have always been tricky. Asking someone about their salary might be intrusive, disrespectful, or impolite, depending on the individual.
And yet some companies have decided to be fully transparent with their wages. According to a Forbes article featuring a UK-based tech firm that implemented pay transparency, doing so helped them attract a diverse workforce and motivated employees to achieve goals.
In the West, pay transparency has been gaining steam over the past few years because it’s seen as a solution for gender and racial inequalities.
But pay transparency doesn’t come without drawbacks. Pay transparency might cause drama in the workplace and tension between employees, especially between those who do not understand that different job roles mean different remuneration.
Check out our video on pay transparency here:
Arguably, small businesses might end up being hurt when their employees see the figures for counterparts working in larger companies, and demand for the same.
While any company despite its size should strive to pay their employees fairly, it isn’t realistic to ask for the same amount at a small or newer company compared to a huge corporation.
Employers of small companies no doubt strive to provide their employees with average wages or maybe higher, but if it’s still in its early stages, it may not be an achievable goal yet.
Furthermore, just because a company doesn’t practise pay transparency doesn’t mean that it’s not being fair to its employees. It could simply be respecting the wishes and privacy of staff members.
So… is Malaysian Pay Gap helping or harming companies?
Maybe some of the anecdotes shared on the Instagram page have helped some employees realise how good they have it at their company. Perhaps some employees will value their current jobs more.
But because Malaysian Pay Gap’s system is to share one-off stories from individuals in the industry, it doesn’t exactly paint a clear picture of what the industry standard is. It could be the experience of one very lucky person, or someone who got the short end of the stick.
There are lots of factors that come into play when deciding on a figure. While some posts include the location of the job and some aspects of their tasks, they don’t provide a very detailed look at what the job scope is, which obviously impacts the pay.
Also, the contributors often share how many years of experience they have, but the quantity of years doesn’t always mean quality. Some could have worked at renowned companies or have an impressive track record. Some may have had fewer years of experience yet have great work performance. While it might not be Malaysian Pay Gap’s intention, the community created might have also created a rift between employers and employees.
Previously, the Instagram page’s founder Prestine told Vulcan Post that she believes employers are not solely to be blamed for pay gaps, as employees must hold up their end of the bargain as well by upskilling and consistently performing well.
However, not everyone understands this, and the way media commonly demonises employers and perpetuates an employer VS employee mindset doesn’t help either.
Two sides to a coin
A Facebook user shared a well-articulated comment about the page, saying that “there are many ignorant employers who downplay the need for market salary survey/data, and equally a lot of employees who use hearsays’ exceptional salaries and benefits without realistically benchmark[ing] themselves.”
Indeed, Malaysian Pay Gap’s figures shouldn’t be taken at face value. Thankfully, it isn’t the only resource workers have. You can search for websites that share annual salary reports or guides, as well as look up the company on sites such as Glassdoor.
For example, I found a Malaysian salary guide from Michael Page, a recruitment agency, and it’s quite beneficial for those in banking, business services, digital and technology, engineering and manufacturing, fast-moving consumer goods and retail, as well as healthcare professionals.
Employers must pay a fair wage, but employees should also be more literate about the industries they’re in and set realistic salary expectations based on multiple factors including their own skillsets, job scope, company size, and more.
Between the conflict caused by unscrupulous employers and ignorant employees, fair employers get caught in the crossfire.
In any case, Malaysian Pay Gap has started a major conversation that has employees everywhere buzzing, but where this conversation will go remains uncertain, and we’ve not seen many employers voice their thoughts either.
The Instagram page is still new and thus barely scratches the surface of the entire pay transparency discourse, and if we really want to take this movement further and in a conducive way, proper initiatives and systems need to be set in place.
Featured Image Credit: 123rf