The most important asset of a country is not its natural resources, but rather human resources. This is especially true in a knowledge based economy, which of course will be the trend in future if not already the trend in most of the western countries.
My daughter, who is in her final year medicine in Auckland, told me that a team of Singapore recruitment officers have just visited Auckland and talked to the Malaysian students there, offering job and training prospect for the final year students once they graduate. My daughter also told me that over the last few years, quite a lot of her Malaysian seniors, after graduating from medical courses in NZ, have gone to Singapore to work as house-officers and subsequently stayed back in Singapore for their postgraduate training.
Similar teams are sent to Australia and UK for recruiting Malaysians there to work in Singapore.
About a year ago, in one of the articles in Reuters, this was reported:
Malaysia is counting on bright, ambitious people like Tan Chye Ling for its future, to lead it away from manufacturing and into the knowledge age.
But the 32-year-old scientist, a post-graduate in molecular biology, is not counting on Malaysia to look after her future.
‘I felt much suppressed in Malaysia,’ said Tan, who moved to neighboring Singapore, the region’s pace-setter for biotech investment, after a decade of study and research in Malaysia.
‘I have benefited from the better research environment and salary scheme here. Things are much smoother,’ she said by phone from the National University of Singapore where she is studying dust mites and allergies.
Tan estimates that 60 percent of the research teams she works with in Singapore are from Malaysia, despite her country’s efforts over several years to develop a biotech industry.
The Malaysian government unveiled plans last March to spend $553.3 million over five years to boost research, attract foreign investment and build new facilities. But its efforts are wasted unless it can retain more talented people like Tan. ’By the time we have the research environment in place, every other country would have taken a slice of the biotech investment pie,’ said Iskandar Mizal, head of the state-run Malaysian Biotech Corporation which oversees the government’s strategy.
There is a serious problem facing “Malayia” and that is the problem of Brain Drain. Why are Malaysians overseas not coming back to work?
Well, pay may be part of the reasons but is not the main reason. Singapore recruitment team offered Malaysian students there a salary which is a few times they would expect to get in Malaysia….S$40,000 a yr for houseman after tax (equivalent to RM86000) which is about 5 times the pay of a houseman in Malaysia.
But, as I say, pay is not the main problem. The living expenses Overseas is high. And for a person working overseas, the loneliness and the stress level is also high. So not everyone opts to work overseas because of pay. Many would not mind to work for lesser pay if they can stay near to their loved ones.
Why do people choose to work overseas, away from their loved one?
Malaysia has many state-of-the-art hospitals and research centers, which may even be the envy of many overseas countries. But hardware alone would not attract these experts o come home. In the medical fields, I have so many friends /classmates working overseas, many in world renowned centers.
Why do they do that?
Some of my classmates and friends did come back as specialists. After working a few years ( many lasted a few months) , most get disillusioned and went off. There is really not much prospect of career advancement. How many can hope to become a professor, even when they are an acknowledged expert in their field? On the other hand , lesser beings are being promoted to professorship for doing much less.
How many of them can have any say about how things are to be run? How many of them can blend into the local team where the work attitude is vastly different from that overseas?
There is an unwritten rule that even if the person is very good, the head of the team has to be someone from a certain ethnic group who may not even be half as good as him.
In everyday life, some become disillusioned with the corruption, the red tape and “tidak apa” attitude of the officialdom. For an overseas doctor applying to work home, the application can take up to 6 months to get approved, whereas, Singapore sends teams overseas to recruit them on the spot, giving them forms to fill and offering them jobs immediately as long as they pass their final examination. See the difference?
It is the sense of being wanted and being appreciated that make these people stay overseas. Back here, they are often made to feel that they are of a lower class; they do not feel wanted and they do not feel appreciated…. That is the main reason.
For those with children , the education system puts them off. Even school children can feel being discriminated, one glaring example is the 2 systems in PreUniversity education.
All these make them pack their bags and off they go again, leaving behind their parents perhaps, siblings,friends they grew up together, favouite food that is often not available overseas. No one likes to be like this; circumstances and a sense of being recognised for their worth make them go away…It is really sad.
Parents spend huge amount of money educating them, but the ones who benefit are the Singaporeans, the Americans, the Australian, the British and so on. As long as race politics is not done away with, this problem of brain drain will continue and Malaysia will always lack behind the advanced countries, no matter how many twin towers and Putra Jayas we build.