Is Malaysia’s public service bloated?


Malaysia has 1.4m public servants (ILO, 2008) for a population size of 28.7m. They make up 4.9 per cent of the population.

It is difficult to do cross-country comparisons because of the differences in definition of public servants, but let’s have some fun anyway and use the latest ILO figures for public servants in selected countries against their respective current populations obtained from Google. You can get the labour statistics by country from the ILO website.

The UK public sector has 6.1m employees (ILO, 2009) serving a population of 62.2m. That works out to 9.8 per cent.

Let’s look at Canada. It has 3.4m public servants (ILO, 2008) serving a population of 34.1m. That’s nearly 10 per cent.

Thailand has 3.4m public servants (ILO, 2008) for 69.1m people. Works out to 4.9 per cent. Almost similar to Malaysia.

Difficult to do a similar comparison for Singapore as the ILO only provides figures for the general government sector and not the entire public sector.

Australia has 1.8m public sector employees (ILO, 2009) for a population of 22.3m or 8.1 per cent.

Malaysia might not look half bad when we compare with these developed countries, but don’t forget we also have the staff in our numerous GLCs.

I suppose at the end of the day, the number of staff is one thing, but qualitative factors are equally if not more important.

Such factors include staff efficiency; adequacy of government funding (e.g. in education and health care); effectiveness and quality of staff and the delivery services; and how prevalent corruption and wastage is. For that, we have a long way to go to match some of the other countries mentioned above.

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Easiet way to cut down is to reduce the number of armed forces personnel (We cannot exactly reduce the number of teachers can we even though they number close to 1/2 million). Every able bodied male should be made to join the territorial army and serve a couple of weeks a year.


The 1.2m people employed in the Malaysian Civil Service compared to its population is the highest compared to the other countries in this region. Another claim in Malaysia Boleh? It is most irresponsible for the BN Govt to make this blatant bribe to win their votes in the coming GE. By giving this increase to make a short term gain, BN is condemning future generations of Malaysians to bear the burden of the debt of this bloated civil service in the form of higher pension payments when these people retire. Already we are in debt to the tune of about… Read more »


Najib talked last year but no positive results yet from majority civil servants ?
Najib forgot to say “you help me, i help you” ?

Gerakan K

I think everyone has a job is important than bloated or not. This is what I call people government.

Phua Kai Lit

Including “First Lady of Malaysia” (FLOM) ??

She substitutes for the Foreign Minister from time to time, I hear.

Yong Peng

Population that pays tax 1.8M
Number of civil servants 1.4M
=> every 1.28 tax payer support 1 civil servant.


Is this figure of 1.4 million accurate? In his Chinese book Political Economics for the Man in the Street (page 8), MP Liew Chin Tong quoted Finance Ministry figures as saying the total number of federal government employees was 1,310,782 in 2010 and put the estimated total number of public employees at 20-25% of the 11 million-strong labor force. We have to also add in the de facto public employees, i.e. those of GLCs like TNB and Telekom, other public utility companies, and institutions like EPF. And then what about state government employees? So the exact total figure is anyone’s… Read more »

Syiok Syiok

Top 7 Ways To Get Rid Of Employees Who Are Not Performing By Christopher M. Knight Fire them. Seriously, I’ve learned that they will cost you more than the Unemployment Compensation will pull from your fund. There is nothing wrong with an employee/employer relationship that does not work out, but only the foolish continue a bad relationship. Raise standards, and do weekly written performance reviews. Help them relocate into a more suitable job elsewhere. Change their hours. Remember, you have the right to determine your employees hours, whether they like it or not. Why? Because the needs of your… Read more »

najib manaukau

It isn’t the number that counts it is the standard of services it delivers and most important of all what it is good at and for.
A fine example if the immigration department, just what is their explanation about the 1.3 millions allowed into the country ? Not 1, 10,, 100 or 1000 but over a million !
Tell that to anyone there is nothing ‘funny’ about it, that can only happen in Malaysia especially with 96% of civil servants coming from only one race.

Plain Truth

Let’s take a look at our typical GLC.

Telekom Malaysia employed 26,629 employees ( according to its 2010 Annual Report ) and made a net profit of RM 1.2 billion on the back of RM 8.8 billion sales.

Across the border, SingTel employed 23,000 employees, generated S$ 18 billion sales and made S$ 3.8b net profit.

S$ 1.00 = RM 2.40

The figures speak for themselves.

Ejen Nora

When there are more employees, it will boost the morale of the managers in Malaysia GLC as they can boast of their huge span of control? It makes their organization chart ‘hebat’ when the manager sits on top of many subordinates?


And Singapore local market is not as big as Malaysia yet they can do much better.


If you don’t give Malay graduates jobs in the civil service, who is going to employ these unemployable graduates? And also, UMNO needs to butter the Malays by giving them jobs in the civil service to buy their votes. And that is why the UMNO government gives these civil service employees generous pension, bonuses, etc. to buy their votes. And never mind if they are employed to do nothing. After all, its not UMNO’s money. The Malays have been brainwashed from young that they can only depend on UMNO to survive. Without UMNO, they die out as a race. This… Read more »

Syiok Syiok

need to learn from this prime minister :


It will will bloat even further as the government has to show more non-Malays in the service. Then they are churning out more useless graduates from our mostly useless universities who can only be employed by the civil service.


Malaysia has 1.4m public servants (ILO, 2008) for a population size of 28.7m. That makes it 4.9 per cent of the population.

Add math’s????

Yong Peng

Civil servant # per capita for benchmarking:

Malaysia: 4.68%
Thailand: 2.06%
Indonesia: 1.79%
Singapore: 1.47%
South Korea: 1.85%

Productivity is never a consideration in Malaysia civil service?
‘Exit policy’ has never been implemented?


Can anybody remember that in the late eighties and early nineties, Mahathir said that the way to reduce the number govt servants was to privatise or the civil service. True enough he ‘piratised’ many of our country assets, TNB, Telecome, Mas, Pos. However the civil service is even more bloated today. They will come out with all reasons when the know they are going to benefit but ultimately will forget what they said. All these are done to enrich their cronies and to gain votes. They bloated the civil service and reward them at the appopriate time to maximise their… Read more »