We’ve often heard how Malaysians who left their home country found their path to success in other countries. This has then strengthen the mindset of more Malaysians to leave their homeland to work in a foreign country.
This phenomenon is called brain drain and we are now experiencing it’s impact on our economy. About a decade ago, the National Economic Advisory Council (NEAC, 2010) warned the government that the brain drain phenomenon in Malaysia is reaching a dangerous stage where talented Malaysians are leaving the country and making it void of a critical mass of highly skilled individuals who are essential to cultivate and develop other talents.
However, the government had not only ignored the warnings and turn hostile towards those who left the country in search of better opportunity.
In 2016, the then-government minister labelled Malaysians who choose to live abroad as unpatriotic and even suggested that the rest of Malaysians, who do not support the government, should leave the country as well.
Apart from these emotional responses, there are also several “push” and “pull” factors that cause Malaysians to choose to stay abroad.
The “push” factors originally come from the home country and consist of elements that motivate people to leave the country.
Among them are unjust policies and social injustice, where most of our policies are ethnicity-based rather than need and merit-based; the limited breadth and depth of the job market, job-related stress and dissatisfaction; extreme conservatism, bureaucracy, hierarchy and rigidity in social, political and institutional settings versus dynamism, creativity, autonomy and innovation; lack of intellectual stimulation; low quality of education and low quality of life, which then resulted in economic instability and scepticism over country’s prospects.
On the other hand, the “pull” factors that attract Malaysians abroad are equal opportunity; better career prospects in terms of promotion as well as breadth and depth of the job market; better employment scheme; better opportunity to acquire new skills and knowledge; the personal goal for advancement and development; the high quality of education; higher quality of life; social and economic stability; ability to adapt to the culture.
While this may be a bit much to digest, but if we take a closer look, the core underlying problem behind all of these factors is poor governance and poor policy planning and/or execution.
Unfortunately, until these core issues are addressed, we will not be able to reverse our brain drain.
Meanwhile, the government had attempted to tackle this issue with the incorporation of TalentCorp. However, TalentCorp reported that the digital-related occupation skill mismatch has been consistently listed as “hard to fill” since 2015.
This then goes back to our education system that fails to prepare students with the relevant knowledge to fill this gap. In addition, even if we radically reform our education system today, it would take at least a decade to nurture talents that fit the market.
Meanwhile, the persistent brain drain has also cause various structural issues to our country, for example, ageing population, low intellectual and academic standards, starvation of talent replacement, low aggregate creative potential, poor governance and policymaking, middle-income trap, low industry development (less breadth and depth), poor quality of life, poor economy, low foreign direct investment, fewer job opportunities and corruption.
Unfortunately, the above factors would lead to even more brain drain and this forms a negative cycle which no government is willing to take the unpopular move to make a change.
What do you think about this? Share your thoughts!