Malaysia faces brain-drain, top talents choose to work in Singapore, even as economy shows signs of growth

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As Covid-19 pandemic restrictions ease and industries open job opportunities, more Malaysians are being enticed to work elsewhere due to higher pay.

However, this is causing a serious local manpower crunch, and Bloomberg Opinion writer Daniel Moss points out that it’s particularly problematic because it is Malaysia’s top talent who are choosing to work in Singapore. 

Mr Moss, who writes about different issues facing Asian nations, pointed out in a June 29 piece the irony of Malaysia’s economy coming to life at a time when many are choosing to work elsewhere. 

“To graduate to the next tier of prosperous economies, Malaysia must staunch the flow of talented citizens abroad.”

He further explained that Malaysia is currently experiencing shortages on two fronts: those who are highly-skilled looking for greener pastures, as well blue-collar workers in short supply due to pandemic border closures and a hiring freeze.

Nevertheless, there are some Malaysians, however, who are opting to work close to home.

The Star recently interviewed several Malaysians who had formerly worked in Singapore who, after the long separation from their families due to Covid, is staying put for now despite the lure of higher pay.

These workers are opting for local jobs instead. 

Tan Sheau Hui, 48, a business systems analyst who worked in Singapore for almost three decades, resigned, so she could be with her family.

Fortunately, the Melaka branch of the firm that she worked for in Singapore offered her a job shortly afterwards.

One reason why she decided to stay is concern over borders closing again in the future.

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“Although I am now working in Melaka and not living near my family in Johor Bahru, at least I know that in case of any emergency, I can still make my way back home.

That was not the case for me during the pandemic, as I could not simply travel back to Johor from Singapore,” The Star quotes Ms Tan as saying.

Bloomberg’s Mr Moss pointed out that while Singapore is also experiencing a labour crunch, Malaysia appears to be facing greater challenges as it “faces a brain — and brawn — drain, driven by hard-to-extinguish racial preferences that favour ethnic Malays at the expense of minorities.” 

He quoted a 2021 World Bank report that said that one-third of Malaysia’s emigrants are highly educated and skilled, who “leave the country for lack of opportunities.

“Malaysia has long aspired to join the ranks of advanced economies and proudly paraded some of the baubles of such status: a domestic auto industry, the world’s tallest building and so on. It would do well to focus on less jazzy but vital components of success, like a labor market that can drive development in coming decades, not a relic of the go-go years of the late twentieth century,” he added. /TISG

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