How Do You Know If You Are Being Paid A Fair Salary?

How Do You Know If You Are Being Paid A Fair Salary?

Are you earning a fair wage?

We know that salary can be a touchy subject. It’s often used as a measure of personal success, and people are often judged by how much they make at a job. Which is why many of us would rather not discuss it for fear of showing off – or not measuring up to others.

However, not having a clear understanding of your worth can lead you to be severely underpaid. A Bank Negara Malaysia report from 2018 showed that the majority of Malaysians were underpaid for their value and skill level of work compared to other developed countries such as Australia or our neighbours, Singapore.

The main point we need to look at is the “pay-per-productivity” metric, which is basically how they compare the standard amount of value produced and how much an employee is paid for the output. In the report, BNM shows how Malaysia trails far behind other developed countries when it comes to paying workers fairly.

Here’s a quick example:

In Malaysia, you get paid $340 to produce an output valued at $1000. Compared to other benchmark countries, workers get paid $510 to produce the same output valued at $1000.

That’s over 30% difference in wages!

While there could be many factors that might affect it, such as currency, purchasing power, and so forth, it’s still a stark difference that highlights how severely underpaid many Malaysians are.

But, how do you know if your salary is calculated fairly and what do you do if you’re being underpaid? Well, in this article, we’ll take a look at what you can do to figure out whether you’re being paid fairly and how to approach management for a pay raise if you’re not.

Figuring out your salary level

Reports from trustworthy sites such as BNM or Hays can be a great source of information for a general idea of the average market salary trends.

However, this information may be too broad to apply to your situation. Which is why we suggest that you do the following to figure out how your salary compares to the rest of the market.

Using online data

Salary information is now more easily accessible through the internet–often for free.

Glassdoor’s salary checker offers a search function that gives you a general overview of the salary range based on their internal data. Hays’ salary checker, on the other hand, will compare your salary to peers in your industry but is rather limited in terms of job categories and area of expertise.

Here’s a quick overview based on Glassdoor salary checker, just to give you an idea of what’s the average salary for several jobs in the market:

Job TitleAverage Salary (Per Year)
Marketing ManagerRM91,000
Marketing ExecutiveRM30,000
Human Resources ManagerRM102,000
Human Resources ExecutiveRM35,000
Sales ManagerRM120,000
Sales ExecutiveRM44,000
Accounting ManagerRM84,000
Accounting ExecutiveRM40,000
Social Media ManagerRM60,000
Social Media ExecutiveRM30,000

Another method is to look at job sites and compare your salary to what’s being offered for job openings that are similar to yours. Use sites such as Jobstreet or Linkedin to get an idea of what the average salary is for your job and figure out whether you’re below or above the market rate.

Keep in mind that you’ll need to do a little bit of research to find what you’re looking for. What we recommend you do is to go to the “search job” function, put in your current position (or something similar), compare your current salary to what the results are and that should give you a good idea of your salary level in the market.

Talking to colleagues and peers

If you suspect that you’re being underpaid and are looking for immediate data to confirm your suspicion, then you should consider talking to colleagues and peers within your industry.

We know that talking about salary can be a sensitive subject, especially if it’s with the people that you work with.

A study was done by Harvard Business School’s Zoë Cullen and UCLA’s Ricardo Perez-Truglia which showed that the majority of employees would only pay $13 for salary information if given the opportunity. The same report also mentions that many employees would pay for an opportunity to avoid being asked about their salary by a co-worker.

However, if you approach the topic carefully, it would give you a greater understanding of how your current employer values you.

Some tips for this would be to find someone who you know well and feels comfortable talking sensitive topics with you. Another tip is to find former coworkers to talk to, as they are more likely to discuss their pay since it’s no longer an issue. If talking about direct numbers is still too intimidating, Vicki Salemi from suggests citing percentages to kickstart the conversation.

One thing to remember when it comes to talking to your friends about their salaries is the fact that there could be a variety of reasons why your pay might be different compared to theirs. Things such as different markets, qualifications, experience, and company performances can be a factor in determining one’s salary.

Asking for a raise if you’re underpaid

So you’ve done your research and you found out that you’re underpaid. What do you do next? Of course, you need to ask for a raise. But to improve your chances of getting that raise, we recommend you follow the tips below:

Build your case. Walking in and saying that you want a raise with no data to back you up is a surefire way to get rejected by management. You need to give proof and data to support your claim for higher pay. Compile all the data and research you’ve done in a document (with sources) and have it with you when you talk to your boss.

One of the more effective ways of convincing management to give you a raise is by highlighting your contributions to the company. Mention all the big projects that you’re undertaking and how it’s improving their business. Also, try to be as detailed as possible with your metrics (ex. “My project has resulted in an increase in sales by 30%).

Set up a meeting with your boss. Asking for a raise is a big topic and one that we wouldn’t recommend bringing up during team meetings. Instead, schedule a one-on-one meeting with your manager so that you can discuss your problems effectively and make your case for increasing your pay.

Hopefully, by the end of the meeting, you and your manager will come to a favourable conclusion. If not, ask them if it’s possible to revisit the topic down the line instead of quitting your job as current economic situations might not guarantee you getting a raise in a new position.

Whatever the outcome may be, figuring out whether you’re being paid a fair salary or not will ultimately help you make better and more informed career decisions in the future.

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