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Malaysian govt warns of ‘brain drain’ as skilled workers seek opportunities abroad

Malaysia grapples with brain drain as skilled workers increasingly seek opportunities abroad, focusing on their presence in Singapore in 2022, according to the Department of Statistics Malaysia.



Malaysia brain drain
(Photo: The Edge Malaysia)

MALAYSIA: The Department of Statistics Malaysia (DOSM) recently conducted a study on Malaysians working abroad, specifically focusing on their presence in Singapore in 2022.

According to the findings, 38 per cent of Malaysians in Singapore are employed, while the remaining 62 per cent are in the country for various reasons such as business engagement, participation in training and research, pursuing education, or marriage to a Singaporean.

Breaking down the demographics, the study reveals that 62 per cent of Malaysians in Singapore are male, with approximately 48 per cent falling within the age range of 25–39 years old.

In terms of income, two-thirds (66.7 per cent) of Malaysians living and working in Singapore earn a gross salary ranging from S$1,500 to S$3,599 per month.

Furthermore, 18.5 per cent earn S$3,600 to S$9,999, 1.2 per cent earn S$10,000 to S$17,999, and the highest gross monthly salary reported is S$18,000.

The employment distribution among Malaysians in Singapore shows that 39 per cent are skilled, and 35 per cent are semi-skilled, as indicated in the study released on Monday (19 Feb) by the Department of Statistics Malaysia, an agency under the Prime Minister’s Department, and the Ministry of Economy.

Malaysians are drawn to working in Singapore for various reasons, including attractive job opportunities, competitive salaries, a favourable SGD exchange rate, and an overall better standard of living.

CNA reported in October last year that the weaker Malaysian ringgit, in comparison to the Singapore dollar, has prompted an increase in Johor residents seeking employment opportunities in Singapore.

The latest currency notes indicate that the Malaysian Ringgit reached a new low against the Singapore dollar, falling to RM3.57 on Wednesday (21 Feb) before slightly recovering to RM3.5672.

This information highlights the motivations behind the significant presence of Malaysians in the Singaporean workforce.

In a related study released simultaneously, Malaysians living in Brunei were also profiled.

Conducted in 2023, the study on Malaysians in Brunei revealed trends that were broadly similar to those observed in the Singapore study.

Notably, 92 per cent of Malaysians in Brunei who live and work there are skilled or semi-skilled, with 50 per cent of the Malaysian diaspora in Brunei primarily being there for work.

Malaysia grapples with ‘brain drain’ challenges as skilled workforce seeks opportunities abroad

The Department of Statistics Malaysia (DOSM) has issued a cautionary note regarding the potential “adverse effects” of ‘brain drain’, as skilled workers continue to leave the country.

In a statement, Dato’Sri Dr Mohd Uzir Mahidin, Chief Statistician Malaysia, provided a summary of in-depth studies conducted in 2022 and 2023, revealing that Malaysians are increasingly opting for employment opportunities abroad.

The recognition of Malaysian education on the global stage plays a pivotal role in facilitating upward mobility for individuals.

Those with a fundamental educational background in SPM have the opportunity to progress from low-skilled positions to semi-skilled or skilled roles in countries like Singapore and Brunei Darussalam.

However, this trend raises concerns about brain drain, where Malaysia faces a loss of skilled talents.

This has potential financial ramifications, as a significant portion of those employed abroad originated from the Malaysian education system.

Turning ‘brain drain’ into ‘brain circulation’ for economic growth

In response to this challenge, there is a call to reframe the narrative surrounding ‘brain drain’ and view it through the lens of ‘brain circulation’, as stated by Dato’Sri Dr Mohd Uzir Mahidin.

This paradigm shift suggests that the Malaysian diaspora will eventually return to Malaysia after a predetermined period, bringing back their acquired expertise and experience to contribute positively to the country.

This reframing aims to transform what could be perceived as a negative phenomenon into a more optimistic concept, emphasizing the potential benefits of returning skilled individuals to the Malaysian workforce.

To effectively utilize the concept of ‘brain circulation’ as a strategy to encourage the Malaysian diaspora’s return and contribution to the country’s economy, it is crucial to adopt a more comprehensive and systematic approach.

This involves moving beyond the confines of government ministries and agencies, requiring the government to embrace a holistic method for diaspora management.

The goals of diaspora management should extend beyond mere repatriation, focusing on how to harness the expertise of returning individuals for the country’s benefit while ensuring their well-being upon their return to Malaysia.

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I hv no issue having more Malaysians working in Singapore. In my experience, Malaysians are much hungrier and better workers than Singaporeans. Singaporeans are lazy!

All nations bark up the wrong tree and you can be assured its end is death(sure die), especially those who put their trust in wealth.

Ownself make till 3.56 to 1 and counting ,then complain about …BRAIN DRAIN…Obviously such kinds are….WITHOUT BRAINS…Maybe go non-halal will maybe…just maybe ….get some of their BRAINS…BACK!😆😆😆🤣🤣🤣🤣😆😆😆😆

If the Malaysian government is serious about tackling the brain drain. Scrap affirmative action enacted under the New Economic Policy. Making the Bumiputera lazier helps nobody in particular and certainly not the country at large.

Ethnic minorities not conferred benefits are also more likely to leave to seek better opportunities abroad. For example, over 1 million Malaysian Chinese have moved into Singapore since the 1980s. Because they assimilate so well into Singapore you would never know anyway.