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Brain Drain in Malaysia

  • Date Submitted: 04/24/2012 02:35 AM
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BRAIN DRAIN

“Malaysia faces an exodus of talent. Not only is our education system failing to deliver the required talent, we have not been able to retain local talent of all races nor attract foreign ones due to poor prospects and a lack of high-skilled jobs." (NEAC, 2010a, p.60) Human capital is the bedrock of the high-income economy. As Malaysia prepares to join the league of high-income nations, it is embarking upon a structural transformation of its economy that relies on skill-intensive and innovation-led growth. Unsurprisingly, the agenda of human capital development has taken center stage in the reform agenda. For Malaysia to meet the requirements of its new growth model, it will need to develop, attract and retain talent. Against this backdrop, brain drain—or the cross-border migration of talent—poses a specific challenge. If indeed there has been and continues to be an ‘exodus of talent’ as the quote above suggests, the brain drain could well be a major stumbling block in Malaysia’s journey towards high income. Indeed, the outflow of talent does not seem to square with what is needed domestically: a skilled, entrepreneurial and creative labor force that helps propel value added. Brain drain has long been a subject of debate and controversy, but few studies have characterized the phenomenon in the Malaysian context—be it in terms of magnitude, impact or policy response. As Danny Quah of the London School of Economics remarked in a recent New York Times interview, “people have left, growth prospects have dimmed, and then more people continue to leave… It is a vicious cycle that the economy has had to confront for the last decade or longer” (Gooch, 2010). These observations alone lead to three sets of questions    The fact that “people have left” is largely uncontested. But what is the magnitude and intensity of Malaysia’s brain drain, what are its characteristics and for what reasons do people emigrate? “Growth prospects have dimmed.” This may be...

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