Sunday, May 22, 2011

S’pore gains from M’sia’s brain drain

Patrick Lee | FMT
May 21, 2011

Malaysia's brain drain is both heavily Chinese and concentrated just below the border, says a report by the World Bank.

PETALING JAYA: A large portion of the best and the brightest Malaysia has to offer have taken root in Singapore.

According to a 2011 World Bank report entitled “Malaysia Economic Monitor: Brain Drain”, 121, 662 highly-skilled Malaysians migrated to the island nation by 2010.

This accounted for nearly half of the 276, 558 Malaysians registered as “brain drain” individuals by 2010.

Additionally, the report said a total of 385, 979 Malaysians were residents of Singapore in 2010.

“Singapore alone absorbs 57% of the entire (Malaysian) diaspora, with most of the remainder residing in Australia, Brunei, United Kingdom and the United States,” the report added.

On top of that, it said that 88% of Malaysians residing in Singapore were ethnic Chinese, with Malays and Indians accounting for 6% and 5% respectively.

It has been estimated that there are more than one million Malaysians residing overseas.

Top reasons for migration

According to respondents interviewed by the World Bank, the top three drivers of brain drain included career prospects (66%), social injustice (60%) and compensation (54%).

The report also noted a worrying fact: one out of every 10 Malaysian with tertiary degrees in 2000 migrated to countries listed under the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development).

This, the report said, was twice the global average. It added that if the list included Singapore, it would have been two out of 10.

The report also revealed that Malaysia’s brain drain had gone up, claiming that the “skilled diaspora” was three times larger than it was 20 years ago.

However, the report said that the true number of Malaysians in Singapore might be much larger, especially with non-residents working there.

Every day, thousands of Malaysians cross the border over the jam-packed Causeway from Johor Baru to work in the island nation.

Strong sense of attachment

However, the report said that many overseas Malaysians did not scorn their place of birth. “Surveys of the Malaysian diaspora point to a strong sense of attachment to the motherland,” it said.

Numbers showed that almost half of the the Malaysian diaspora possesed a strong sense of patriotism or emotional attachments to the country. Another 20% remained undecided.

“This seems to suggest that many Malaysians remain connected to home even though they are living or studying abroad,” the report added.

It said that many Malaysians were likely to return if “enabling conditions were satisfied”, especially over “talent management policies”.

Respondents surveyed in the report largely suggested a paradigm shift from race-based towards needs-based affirmative action. A large portion also called for a change to take place in the government and public sector.

Adding to these thoughts, the World Bank said there was some progress made with the Government Transformation Programme (GTP) and the Economic Transformation Programme (ETP).

However, the report said in order to have a lasting impact, the country needed more broad-based productivity and “investment climate enhancements.”

“Productivity and inclusiveness lie at the heart of Malaysia’s transformation programme. Implementing these forcefully will go a long way towards turning the brain drain into a gain,” it said.

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