Brain Drain in Malaysia: the Strategies to Battle the Negative

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Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • The Causes of Brain Drain in Malaysia
  • Political Inequality
    Lack of Educational Opportunities
    Lack of Job Opportunities and Income
  • The Negative Impacts of Brain Drain to Malaysia
  • Lost Talented and Skillful Citizens
    Lowered Quality of Life
    Reduced Investments to Country
  • Strategies to Address the Issues of Losing Human Capital Due to Brain Drain
  • Provide Future Jobs and Increase the Salary of Professionals
    Resolve Racism Issues and Inequality
  • Conclusion


Brain drain is when a different country or area can provide better paycheque and better conditions to live in which causes a huge amount of educated and skilled people to leave their own country (Cambridge University Press, n.d.). In 2009, 27.5 million was Malaysia's population. The World Bank used previous data and estimated that at least 800,000 and up to 1.4 million Malaysians were living overseas. The World bank has identified it as brain drain as more than a third of them are over 25 or rather citizens that are living overseas and contribute to other countries rather than their own (The World bank 2011).The reason this report is written is to raise awareness of this occurrence and strategies to reduce this issue.

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This report is written to the Ministry of Human Resources. The report would examine the sources of brain drain in Malaysia, the disadvantages of brain drain to Malaysia and ways to overcome the problem of losing human capital due to brain damage.

The Causes of Brain Drain in Malaysia

In this section, the report provides detailed information on the causes of brain drain in Malaysia, which are:

Political Inequality

The first main reason that caused this issue is racism in Malaysia. Malaysia have racial issue among the country as there are citizens from different races such as Malay, Chinese, Indian and others. A deep negative impact will be formed on an organization and other country that have a more harmony organization will cause people to leave for other countries due to racial discrimination (Hassan and Fong 2017). Based on the racial distribution, special privileges were given to the Malays by the Constitutions so that they have extra assistance in starting businesses, mandatory discounts for real estate and educational opportunities (The World Bank 2011). Hence, contributing to the causes of brain drain in Malaysia. This has led to the next point.

Lack of Educational Opportunities

Roughly 10% of the spots of matriculation goes to non-natives as matriculation is primarily reserved for native students,. The one-year programme is for both natives and non-natives, while the two-year programme is only for native students (Everything You Need To Know About Maltriculasi in Malaysia, n.d.). The Ministry of Education said that the Malaysian Matriculation Programme will take in 90% native students and 10% that are not native students during the recent matriculation issue. Other than that, 60% of the places will be given to the Bottom 40 (B40) income with 40% of the remaining places will be given to the Middle 40 (M40) and Top 20 (T20) segments (Matriculation - affirmative action based on needs or ethnicity? 2019).

Lack of Job Opportunities and Income

Based on the department of Statistics, Malaysia, 65,500 graduates were record unemployed, which is 16.7% of the total unemployed labour in 2010. The unemployed graduates in Malaysia was slightly increased compared from the year 1998 to the year 2010, according the graph of number of unemployed graduates by highest certificate (Razak, Yusof, Syazana, Jaafar and Talib 2014). There is high competition among certain professional careers to get a certain position that can be offered by employers in Malaysia, some of those professional careers may not even be offered by employers. The emigration of these professionals refuses to return to Malaysia due to this restraint of this situation especially in knowledge and intensive skill sectors (Ghazali, Kusairee, Tan, Yasin and Yasoa 2015).

The Negative Impacts of Brain Drain to Malaysia

In this part, this report discusses the information of the negative impacts of brain drain to Malaysia such as:

Lost Talented and Skillful Citizens

A strong incentive for migration of an individual occurs when insufficient suitable high-productivity employment opportunities in the professional field is present. Offers in Malaysia may not be given to a range of professional occupations (Ghazali, Kusairee, Tan, Yasin and Yasoa 2015). Other countries with higher salary will attract a lot of highly capable Malaysians to work overseas. Better wages when seeking career advancement in other countries are attractive to highly skilled labours that includes nurses, lawyers, doctors and engineer. This causes professionals to leave Malaysia (Hassan and Fong 2017). Due to the requisite expertise that had been lost, the service of the healthcare system to be halted due to the migration of trained personnel, especially those from the medical field to the private sector. The public sector of this system had to occasionally buy the service provided by private neurosurgeons to attend their patients, especially during emergencies as services such as neurosurgery is critically short-staffed (Quek 2014). There are countries from recent surveys shown that there are around 90% of Malaysians polled to migrate to different countries, with Australia as the top pick, followed by Singapore and Japan, for career advancement and healthier work-life balance (90% of Malaysians willing to relocate for career advancement, survey reveals 2019).

Lowered Quality of Life

The increase of dissatisfaction on the citizen's life quality is caused by the increase cost of living in Malaysia. Citizens have to find extra income for their expenditure due to the increase of costs of basic needs such as housing, education, food and many others. The increase of fear of insecurity issues among the citizens was caused by the high rate of criminal activities such as robberies and kidnappings. Due to the experience of bad work-life balance, Malaysian construction professionals migrate to other countries. Professionals will search for better living condition in other countries for their family (Danalaban 2015). The sustain of human rights and freedoms record in Malaysia is disheartening. There are a few cases of human rights abuses in the country in the year 2018. There are women abuse, the denial of rights of children through early marriages, opposition supporters with freedom to speech is denied, and police brutality. Besides that, there are political power imbalance as well as low trust levels between different races which can cause the effectiveness to express oneself in Malaysia to be more difficult. The quality of life of the country is reduced due to these disservice (Quality of Life in Malaysia 2019).

Reduced Investments to Country

In the year 2016, the investments of manufacturing, services and primary sectors was RM154.3 billion, compared to the year 2017(9M17) for the first nine months was RM113.5 billion, it had fell 26.5% year-on-year (YoY) investments. Due to the lower quantum of approved investments recorded, the decline in the services sector specifically a drop of 37.6% and in manufacturing sector according to the Malaysian Investment Development Authority (Mida) (Rao 2017). A recorded data shows decline of 28.2% in 2016 compared with RM91.2 billion for the same period in the year 2017, whereby a total of RM95.4 billion of investments in the services, manufacturing and primary sectors for the first six months of 2017(1H2017) were approved.61,930 of employment opportunities will be created as these investments involved 2,294 projects. Due to the 41% drop in the amount of approved investment was the reason of it being declined and it was recorded for the service sectors. The delay in the property market was coinciding of this. Due to the large amount of investments that went into the Pegerang and RAPID project in Johor in 2014-2016, the approved investment for manufacturing sector was declined as well. Other than that, several countries in the region offer lower labour cost caused Malaysia to be unable to compete with them (1H2017 Approved Investments Totalled RM65.4 Billion 2017).

Strategies to Address the Issues of Losing Human Capital Due to Brain Drain

In this section, the report issues the strategies to address the issues of losing human capital due to brain drain. For instance:

Provide Future Jobs and Increase the Salary of Professionals

Industrial countries should observe anything that will influence the remaining professionals in the country as regressive in their career and job satisfaction when they place a high value on them after the other segment of the professionals have left. Unless they can anticipate substantial economic and professional chances, this will make them reluctant to return home (Iredale 2004). The Prime Ministry's Office had announced that the minimum wage for nationwide, including Sabah and Sarawak, will be placed at RM1,050 per month or RM5.05 per hour. Comparing to Singapore, the minimum salary is very low as Singapore has a much higher amount of wages provided to their workers than in Malaysia (Higher minimum wage nationwide from Jan 1 2019 2019). About 1,200 Singaporean dollars or roughly 880 USD, which is around RM3,656.71 is the minimum salary for cleaners. Besides that, around 4500 Singaporean dollars or roughly 3100 US dollars, which is around RM13,711.52, is the average salary in Bucharest (Stotz 2019). Therefore, the salary provided for the workers should be increased so that more professionals will not leave their country to search for better opportunities to work with a higher pay cheque.

Resolve Racism Issues and Inequality

The victims from racism and racial discrimination varies from all ethnic minorities who are non-natives, including the indigenous people of peninsula Malaysia. The dominance of natives of the country in the civil and armed service have gone far beyond the pre-1969 situation, natives and non-natives still remains divided into two different classes. Besides that, only native students are allowed to enroll in the public sector institution Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) due to racial discrimination. Mostly Chinese ethnics were victims of the terrible bloodshed on 13 of May in the year 1969. “Those who do not learn from the past are condemned to repeat it” (Kua 2015). Therefore, racism should be resolved by reinforcing human rights and resolve political inequality. The Pakatan Harapan government had rejected to the ratification of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), this report tried to persuade the government to reconsider its decision to reject the ratification of ICERD in Malaysia. The report states that the government of Malaysia's move to not sign and approve the ICERD shows that they accept racial discrimination. As a solution, consciousness should be instilled and racism and discrimination should be eradicated at all levels of the Malaysian society from ministers, member of Parliaments (MPs) and mayors to the members of the civil service and enforcement agencies, should be implied in in the formal education system as well as public information campaigns (Racial discrimination continues in ‘New Malaysia’, says report 2019). So, ICERD should be ratified in Malaysia to resolve the racial discrimination of the country. This strategy can reduce the outflow of professionals from Malaysia to other countries when they are treated equally without racial discrimination and inequalities.


This report is written for the Ministry of Human Resources. Based on the discussion provided in this report, there are many factors that caused brain drain in Malaysia such as political inequality, lack of educational opportunities and lack of job opportunities and income. Most of the factors that caused brain drain in Malaysia are because of political inequality. A few main negative impacts of brain drain in Malaysia discussed in this report are; lost talented and skillful citizens, lowered quality of life and reduced investments to country. Moreover, this report also discusses the strategies to address the issues of losing human capital due to brain drain like provide future jobs and increase salary of professionals and resolve racism issues and inequality. Hopefully the government will take into account to help to resolve the issue of brain drain so that Malaysia can strive to be ranked among the best countries

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