PwC’s Hopes and Fears Survey 2021

Malaysia report

April 2021


COVID-19 hasn’t just accelerated digital transformation. It’s changed the future of work as we know it. The importance of specific skills like digital can no longer be underestimated, as technology becomes even more interwoven into our personal and professional lives. Having adapted to the new normal, workforce expectations have also evolved over the past year, with many wanting greater workplace flexibility and options to work outside the office even post-pandemic.

We explore these themes in the Malaysia report* of PwC’s Hopes and Fears Survey 2021. From the 2,003 local responses gathered from 26 January to 8 February this year, we see that while technology has proven to deliver opportunities, the risks associated with job disruption, the inability to disconnect, and the widening digital divide remain ever present. 

*This report may be considered a follow-up to our ‘Digital resilience in a new world’ thought leadership, which was prepared independently by PwC Malaysia in 2020 as a local version of PwC’s Global ‘Hopes and fears’ report published in 2019. 


are worried that automation is putting many people’s jobs at risk


are ready to learn new skills or completely retrain in order to remain employable in the future


prefer a mostly virtual work environment


are able to disconnect from work outside working hours and make use of their full annual leave entitlement


say they want to work for an organisation that will make a positive contribution to society

Explore the key findings

Malaysians embrace technology but are anxious about jobs
  • 77% of respondents believe technology presents more opportunities than risks.
  • However, 71% are concerned that automation is putting many people’s jobs at risk.
  • 57% believe their job will be made obsolete in the next 5 years because of technological advancements.
  • People were already anxious about the digitalised future before COVID-19, and with the pandemic heightening uncertainties, employers have a responsibility to see to it that their employees are not left behind. Employers will need to commit to educating their employees on how digital transformation is impacting the organisation, and how that may disrupt job functions. The relevance of current skills will then need to be assessed to identify gaps, so that employees can be properly upskilled or reskilled.
  • This applies across all industries, where digital transformation plans are being intensified. Essential to those plans, is an upskilling or reskilling programme that comprises a mix of technical and human skills, core to enabling employees to better adapt to our digital era. 


Many are eager to develop new skills
  • Since the pandemic began, only 19% of respondents say they had adequate digital skills, which allowed them to cope well. 
  • However on a positive note, 57% report an improvement in developing their digital skills. 
    • 46% had some digital skills and developed them further. 
    • 11% didn’t have adequate digital skills, but acquired them on the job. 
  • 92% are given the opportunity to improve their digital skills outside their normal duties. 
    • 43% are given many opportunities. 
    • 49% are given some opportunities. 
  • 87% agree and strongly agree that it’s their own responsibility to update their skills rather than relying on their employers.
  • COVID-19 has further established the need for upskilling and reskilling, which should encompass a mix of both digital skills and human skills (for example, resilience, agility, leadership, creativity, problem solving). 
  • Upskilling or reskilling programmes should be developed based on the specific needs of employees and the business. For more effective training, employees should undertake a skills assessment, allowing organisations to better pinpoint what crucial skill sets are lacking.
  • Everyone is responsible for ensuring upskilling/reskilling happens: the government, businesses and individuals. Public-private collaborations would help accelerate progress in this area, as each sector has their specific abilities that contribute to this goal (for example, the government in ensuring the nation has the necessary infrastructure in place to broaden digital access; businesses in helping the government shape and drive the upskilling agenda forward in the country). 
  • Malaysians show determination to acquire new skills and are getting opportunities to learn, whether through their employers or by themselves. However, there are still barriers blocking access. The disparity in access to infrastructure and upskilling and reskilling opportunities is a problem that needs urgent prioritisation, the failure of which could further widen the digital divide. 



Remote work is in demand 
  • 55% prefer a mostly virtual work environment.
    • 28% prefer a mix of face-to-face and remote working.
    • 27% prefer mostly virtual working with some face-to-face. 
  • 28% prefer a wholly virtual place where employees can contribute from any location.
  • 16% prefer a mostly face-to-face work environment.
    • 8% prefer a traditional work environment.
    • 8% prefer working mostly face-to-face with some remote working.
  • Employees are not ready to give up on working remotely, having demonstrated that they’re able to deliver on their responsibilities away from the office. A hybrid workplace model or a fully virtual one is, to them, the ideal work environment for the future. 
  • However, there isn’t one fixed model for every organisation. Workplace models should also depend on factors such as the organisation’s nature of work, their culture, and how it could contribute to making the organisation a more attractive place to work. 
  • The success of remote working will require organisational support in various forms, be it in providing employees with infrastructure or nurturing a culture of trust that also strengthens collaboration and teamwork virtually. 
  • To update their real estate strategy, organisations will have to re-evaluate the purpose of the office and determine their employee footprint. 
  • With technology heavily supporting the possibility of remote working, investments will also need to be made to strengthen cyber security, in order to minimise the risks of cyber attacks.
Malaysians are in danger of burnout
  • Only 28% are able to disconnect from work outside working hours (on weekends, in the evenings, on vacation, during study time, etc.) and make use of their full annual leave entitlement.
  • Only 25% say their employer helps them to manage stress and focus on creating mental and emotional wellbeing.
  • Only 22% are encouraged to take short breaks in the working day.
  • Technology has made it easier for people to work anytime, anywhere, making it difficult for employees to disconnect. While productivity and efficiency are important, organisations cannot neglect their employees’ physical and mental wellbeing. A balance has to be struck to prevent burnout and to sustain motivation and the delivery of high performance. 
  • Organisations will have to identify the root cause of workplace stress as this will lead to long-term results, as opposed to only relying heavily on feel-good fixes that offer employees temporary happiness. 
Malaysians want to work for purpose-driven companies, but not at any price
  • 85% say they want to work for an organisation that will make a positive contribution to society.
  • However, if forced to choose, 70% would take every opportunity to maximise their income, while only 30% would choose a job that makes a difference over more money.
  • Organisations that contribute positively to society are viewed favourably by employees, underlining the need for the development of an Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) strategy. 
  • With digital skills being critical in today’s world, another way that organisations can contribute back to society is by playing a role in upskilling their communities, for instance, through targeted Corporate Responsibility programmes. 
  • As more people want a job with a sense of purpose, organisations need to ensure their organisational purpose aligns with their business practices. 
  • But as economic realities matter too, remuneration will have to be equally attractive in order to retain and recruit top talent.

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Contact us

Nurul A'in Abdul Latif

Nurul A'in Abdul Latif

Executive Chair, PwC Malaysia

Tel: +60 (3) 2173 0935

Andrew Chan

Andrew Chan

Consulting Leader, PwC Malaysia

Tel: +60 (3) 2173 0348

Carmen Lee

Carmen Lee

Senior Manager, People and Organisation, PwC Malaysia

Tel: +60 (3) 2173 1110