Jabatan Tenaga Kerja or Malaysian Labour Department was established in 1912 and is one of the 12 government agencies under Ministry of Human Resource. The early objective of Labour Department before year 1960s was to protect the interests of plantation and mine workers. In the year 1970, Jabatan Buruh or the Labour Department merged with the Industrial Relations Department, in order to focus on resolving disputes involving employees and trade unions. Labour institutions are continuously restructured to realise their functions in more effective ways. Among changes that have been made is to separate the Labour Department from Jabatan Perhubungan Perusahaan (JPP) or Industrial Relations Department, followed by the delineation of roles and responsibilities. The Labour Department is taked to oversee the welfare and interests of employees in creating a harmonious environment between employers and employees.
The Employment Service Unit which was previously under ‘Jabatan Tenaga Rakyat’ or People Workforce Department has been merged with Labour Department effective from February 2003. This merging has led to big changes to the Labour Department of peninsular Malaysia (JBSM), involving additional functions such as collection of labour information and job seekers' placement in the private sector. This merging resulted in the re-branding of the name Jabatan Buruh to Jabatan Tenaga Kerja.