S’pore gains from M’sia’s brain drain

Patrick Lee | May 21, 2011
Free Malaysia Today

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

  1. #1 by pulau_sibu on Saturday, 21 May 2011 - 6:27 pm

    Brains are shared by everyone in the world, and should not be owned by Malaysia alone. I felt that the oppositions are getting too nationalism by trying to restrict the flow of brains/knowledge. We should contribute to a better world and not just Malaysia. With the success stories of Malaysians outside the country, it makes you proud. If you can be excellent in Malaysia only, no body will recognise your achievement. That is why you all argued about the scholarship for studying overseas, because of our lack of confidence mentality. If you are recognised for local universities, automatically you think that it is less good….

  2. #2 by Thor on Saturday, 21 May 2011 - 6:44 pm

    After the 13th GE, many more “brain” will be leaving this country, if UmnoBN were to win.
    And Malaysia will then be fill with lots of Indons and mamaks claiming to be the rightful melayu.
    As for the real existing malays, prepare to serve your new “tuan” then.

  3. #3 by yhsiew on Saturday, 21 May 2011 - 6:46 pm

    LKY of Singapore is a visionary leader. Seeing the racial problem in Malaysia, he quietly turned Malaysia into a human resource bank for Singapore. LKY is not to blame for the current brain drain problem in the country. The government has to blame itself for formulating myopic race-based policies in its administration opening up an opportunity for foreign countries to capitalize on its policies.

  4. #4 by pulau_sibu on Saturday, 21 May 2011 - 6:52 pm

    Which country is not having brain drain problem?

    if you are concerned with brain drain to outside Malaysia, then why not worrying about brain drain from Sarawak to Kuala Lumpur? Draining into KL is acceptable, but draining out of KL is not acceptable?? You only accept what is good for yourself in KL.

  5. #5 by Jeffrey on Saturday, 21 May 2011 - 7:17 pm

    The Younger Chinese Malaysians need Singapore’s merit base system to tap their skills and talents & to earn the Singapore $ which is twice more than the Ringgit. It is also for their Children to get a better education without history skewed & brains stultified. The main attraction is economic (life not tht great in S’pore per se) though they now face back lash from local S’poreans – it was an election issue- who don’t want the rice bowl. Many of those Malaysians of entrepreneurial aspirations may prefer to work around the racial/corrupt system here. For some of them with the right connections Bolehland Malaysia may offer on case to case basis more opportunities to make money, and yet be at home – that is if they are not too vexed by the politics. Money appears the important factor based on individual circumstances, and which place (here or in S’pore) offers
    more opportunities. With money, if can be made plenty here, they don’t need to go elsewhere. They can go on holiday if they are fed up of the politics. They can send their children anywhere to study.

  6. #6 by Jeffrey on Saturday, 21 May 2011 - 7:19 pm

    Ooops – “…who don’t want the rice bowl – shared & competed against…”

  7. #7 by Jeffrey on Saturday, 21 May 2011 - 7:42 pm

    Besides economic, the fact that S’pore is culturally similar to Malaysia with Chinese majority/and is geographically near to kinship at home is undoubtedly another important drawing factor (as compared to other places). True Malaysia is not onmly one losing its brains. So is S’pore losing its brains to others but the difference is S’pore gains brains from here and elsewhere to balance and match its loss whereas we lose brains and gain semi skilled and brawn from elsewhere, where the socio/economic system is worse than ours.

  8. #8 by gofortruth on Saturday, 21 May 2011 - 7:51 pm

    The NEP of Malaysia is a blatant race discrimination program and which parents in the right frame of mind if given a chance (choice) would subject their children to such a biased system????
    I was a victim in 1975 seeing my SPM 1st grade was not good enough but my Malay classmates with 3rd grade results were admitted to form 6. I’d struggled in UK at the age of 18 & eventually it was the British government that gave me a full university scholarship.
    I make sure my kids are far away from NEP!!!!!!!
    Look at the Moo’s boo boo now with the JPA scholarships. Its sickening!!! He may be our next PM, mind you!!!!!

  9. #9 by baochingtian on Saturday, 21 May 2011 - 8:53 pm

    You have NEP on one hand, and subsidy cut on the other. This is daylight robbery!
    Education and its rewarding system is highly lopsided.
    My friend told this year there r students with 2As that were accepted into matriculation college, and u know i know who r these 2As students!

  10. #10 by tak tahan on Saturday, 21 May 2011 - 9:11 pm

    Maybe they are handicapped like mamak said and meant it for himself too..remember? (deleted)

  11. #11 by dagen on Saturday, 21 May 2011 - 9:50 pm

    The scenario really is a unique win-win case for both malaysia and singapore. One phD chinese crossing the causeway is an obvious gain to singapore. And umno’s malaysia too gained. The economic cake here has one less person to share. And that is good news.

    Everything is well explained in Prinsip2 ekonomi Pokok rambutan. Go. Read that book.

  12. #12 by dagen on Saturday, 21 May 2011 - 10:04 pm

    OMG. Another disaster. Landslide in hulu langat struck an orphanage. Several kids were buried alive. A number were pulled out. Some are still buried.

  13. #13 by tak tahan on Saturday, 21 May 2011 - 10:11 pm

    I was a student preparing to master that book in KL two days ago..F****** crazy prinsip2 ekonomi..in a pub wei..hearing all the crazy prinsip2,i got tempted and i am..f**k**g hard to think..to breathe..it’s this prinsip2 that get your nerve pricked!Vote for change.Anyone got website to check voter’ registration?

  14. #14 by pulau_sibu on Saturday, 21 May 2011 - 10:12 pm

    singapore also drained its best people out. the president of king abdullah university is from singapore. but singaporean politicians did not cry like malaysian politicains.

  15. #15 by tak tahan on Saturday, 21 May 2011 - 10:15 pm

    OMG!Don’t you have the website?

  16. #16 by waterfrontcoolie on Saturday, 21 May 2011 - 10:33 pm

    Pulau_sibu, you are rather good at skewing opinion.The President of a university with the backing of the King is a BIG Matter! He was invited and he went over having been head huntered! That is the difference! Here you have bright young graduates who decide that their future has ended even BEFORE they start off!
    Having witnessed all those cost overrun projects, it is clear that real development is not the motive of the Gomen. The real aim is how much can be generated OFF them. Just take ANY project by the gomen, it is about the highest cost if not in ASEAN , it would be the whole world! This is the REAL development, the gomen is shouting about! How would they pay the average Malaysian? Without R&D, the local inustries can only pay screw-driver drivers’ rate. Just take the banking sector where Gomen has the controlling share: what is the revenue per employee? The same goes for all sectors. With such motive, thsoe with talent will definitely pitch their skills elsewhere: where you are paid what you are worth.

  17. #17 by tak tahan on Saturday, 21 May 2011 - 10:46 pm

    This government is full of shit wei!From top to the bottom.What else can’t we do more wrong than before and nowYou got the connection,you ‘ll there where you visioned yourself to be.Risky job indeed if you’re not sure or not meant to be one.Ar…..yo yo

  18. #18 by wanderer on Saturday, 21 May 2011 - 11:12 pm

    UMNO Melayu enjoy being greased by Singapore with cheap thrills knowing fully well, racial discrimination will favor young tales moving over to the Island city. So to Singapore govt what is there for Singapore to pay lips service, killing two birds with one stone…keeping a cordial relationship with this UMNO/BN morons and at the same time taking our brains practically free!

  19. #19 by passerby on Sunday, 22 May 2011 - 1:56 am

    Talent Corpse is not worry. What is losing a few thousand brains when we can easily replace them with millions from from our abang Indonesia and mamak from india, bangladesh and pakistan.

    Don’t worry if you are discriminated here, dont’ worry, you can always go to England to be a Mayor, or a Governor in US or even a finance minister in Australia.

  20. #20 by cemerlang on Sunday, 22 May 2011 - 7:00 am

    If Singaporeans have not left, Malaysians cannot come in either. Singaporeans are going off to first world nations. Malaysians are filling in their place and Singapore is not yet a first world nation though their facilities are in place. What makes it the best is because it is modernised and allow a westernized kind of freedom because an Islamic freedom is still limited.

  21. #21 by limkamput on Sunday, 22 May 2011 - 8:20 am

    We need World Bank to tell us all these, no wonder we are forever a third world country. By the way, if the World Bank and the IMF know about an issue or a problem, it is probably too late already. We should know better. Every Friday evening, the World Bank Building in Washington will hold a wild party. Is it a coincidence its chief was found favouring a woman employee and presently the IMF chief is accused of sexual assault.

  22. #22 by pulau_sibu on Sunday, 22 May 2011 - 8:52 am

    We need a true excellent Malaysian student who got 12 A++, and who speaks in public in loud and clear voice that he/she wants to stay back to study in the local university, and he would reject any scholarships for going overseas. Then it would be the day when we are really able to retain our best brains.

    So far, all these A+ students are too selfish. They are just thinking of their personal future and not the future of the country. To build a strong country, we need to have the first class local institutions. To become the first class institutions, we need the first class brains – including the brains of the students.

  23. #23 by passerby on Sunday, 22 May 2011 - 10:32 am

    How can you become a first class institution when you have third class teachers who shamelessly calling themselves professors . You can’t be better than your teachers who are third class in a no class institution.

  24. #24 by Jeffrey on Sunday, 22 May 2011 - 10:55 am

    A+ migrate. It is a reality, an “is” issue. To ask whether they “ought” to do so (from moral stand point) makes more complex the issue. It will be argued that it is their democratic & human right to go where opportunities are. Being young they have a whole life ahead. Loyalty to home/country is a communitarian value. Why deny one’s country one’s contributions – where’s the loyalty?- begs the question whether the country/its system reciprocates loyalty to the one alienated. If one argues that the policies of a bunch of selfish politicians in power should not be equated with rejection by one’s country, then it becomes a semantic problem of what exactly constitutes the country to which one is supposed to be loyal to? The food, the weather, the ordinary people whom one calls nationals, the rain forests or what? Since time immemorial it is in our DNA to be selfish in order for survival well. The immigrants who came to this country in 1920s onwards were selfish to leave their countries. They fled from persecution. That’s self defence. Many S’poreans in last election were unhappy with PAP’s immigration policies. This is to protect their jobs, in process seeking to deny their country the brains. Is that not selfish? Who is not selfish? When talking about what morally the more realistic approach is perhaps take into account realities of human nature and not allow too wide a gap between the “ought” and the “is”.

  25. #25 by Jeffrey on Sunday, 22 May 2011 - 11:05 am

    In the same vein one should leave World Bank’s wild parties & Ex IMF’s Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s out of the issue of brain drain. It is absolutely irrelevant to the issue at hand. Of course we don’t need either World Bank or IMF to tell us belatedly after their wild parties. Like it or not the wild parties will go anywhere, even here though they are so well covered up for protection of the powerful, it does not get into the news or the justice system. To bring in what is and what ought to be the case in terms of sexual conduct is another mine field.

  26. #26 by pulau_sibu on Sunday, 22 May 2011 - 11:13 am

    If we have real smart students, who are real 9A+ (not the faked ones), they don’t need great teachers and professors. For example, did Einstein have the greatest professors? Probably not.

    I would be interested in knowing what are our past 9A+ students doing now. Or those who were sent by JPA to study overseas. Did they all ended up as super genius people?

  27. #27 by limkamput on Sunday, 22 May 2011 - 12:23 pm

    wide guy, i know it is not exactly appropriate to bring in the the issues I highlighted but they are not exactly irrelevant. In my interactions with these two world bodies, they are nothing more than a group of international civil servants whose mentality, wastage and incompetence are not dissimilar with those of our civil servants. Mind field or not, i still want to say my piece.

  28. #28 by Jeffrey on Sunday, 22 May 2011 - 12:35 pm

    We know you had interacted with people in these 2 world bodies. You have said it before more than once in th past, if thats the piece.

  29. #29 by limkamput on Sunday, 22 May 2011 - 12:40 pm

    wise guy, you are about right, thank you for your power of discernment and insights.

  30. #30 by Jeffrey on Sunday, 22 May 2011 - 12:57 pm

    Now it really does not require any power of discernment and insight – even ‘analisis mengikut sekolah atap’ will suffice – to spot the difference between a comment relevant to the thread issue and a advertisement of self using the comment on issue, as pretext. Its like an elephant in the room.

  31. #31 by Ray on Sunday, 22 May 2011 - 2:06 pm

    Totally agreed with the Brain drained reasons but not world bank…..
    Yes Singapore indeed needs brillant smart individuals regardless of race religion to support , grow her economy medium term so as to remain strategically competitive without much natural resources.
    Why BD??ringgit shrinking?? all becos Malaysia being ruled by Authocratic Umnoputras corrupted pariahs and therefore does not need smart human resources as it has sufficient natural oil and gas to pay their own salaries and ruining the nation in no time ……going Bankruptcy soon when oil/gas run dry….Lets throw Umno out of Putrayaya

    All rakyat must vote PR into Putrajaya for better or worst….die die or not!

  32. #32 by sotong on Sunday, 22 May 2011 - 3:55 pm

    Until our oil money run out and unemployment increase significantly, S’pore and other countries can take all the brains and talents they want.

  33. #33 by cemerlang on Sunday, 22 May 2011 - 10:56 pm

    Teachers who obtain a permanent head damage have to teach in a university. With a PhD, you are not supposed to be in a school, primary or secondary because that is a university’s qualification and you being a Doctor of Philosophy has to teach the University students. If a teacher with a PhD is still teaching in a school, then there is something very very very wrong. In fact it means that education in Malaysia has no standard at all. It will be something like the Filipinos all having degrees. And you find some of them being nannies, maids and others.

  34. #34 by Loh on Monday, 23 May 2011 - 9:54 am

    ///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%).///–MI

    The three are related, and the pivot is social injustice, or racial discrimination. It is NEP which denies them their career prospect, and with that the compensation.

    ///“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///–MI

    That is taking care of the symptoms , not the cause. The few big investment projects might include some non-Malays but on the whole people outside the projects do not feel included. When trained manpower do not return, and when the critical mass needed for productivity threshold is absence, the transformation programme will not change social injustice in the country. There might be some outside brain, mainly the foreign Muslims who might come in. Talent Corp does not aim at attracting non-Malay Malaysians home.

    Brain drain is part of government plan to ameliorate the sense of jealousy of the protected people, and that was the raison d’etat for NEP. When that serves concurrently the interest at the voting booths, to have fewer non-Malay voters, UMNO government has founded the perfect crime. UMNO wants brain drain to continue. They are happy that their strategy works, but they are unhappy to be told that that strategy corners the country into a low-income trap. But then their income are from different sources, and are high by any standard.

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