Malaysia’s brain drain: More Malaysian skilled and semi-skilled workers employed in Singapore and Brunei

SINGAPORE: A study released earlier this week by the Department of Statistics Malaysia (DOSM) and the Ministry of Economy highlights the country’s brain drain to greener pastures with better pay, specifically Singapore and Brunei.

Nearly two in five Malaysians (39 per cent) in Singapore are skilled workers, and almost as many (35 per cent) are semi-skilled workers.

In Brunei, the numbers are even higher, with 68 per cent skilled workers and 24.1 semi-skilled workers among Malaysians residing there, said Chief statistician Datuk Seri Mohd Uzir Mahidin.

These figures are from a 2022 study called ‘Social Security Protection for Malaysian Citizens Working Abroad: Singapore’ study and the Malaysian Diaspora Study in Brunei in 2023.

“For monthly gross salary, it was found that 66.7 per cent of respondents working in Singapore receive salaries ranging from S$1,500 to S$3,599, and 18.5 per cent get salaries between S$3,600 and S$9,999,” he noted.

As for Malaysians working in Brunei, 41.3 per cent receive monthly gross salaries between S$1,000 and S$3,000, and 43.5 per cent receive between S$3,001 and S$10,000, Mr Mohd Uzir added.

The highest salary Malaysians earn is S$18,000 in Singapore and S$15,000 in Brunei.

The biggest incentive for Malaysians to work in Singapore and Brunei is financial, with higher salaries and better job opportunities and environments.

The currencies of Singapore and Brunei are also more stable than the Malaysian ringgit, which has been experiencing a free fall since last year and was the worst-performing in Southeast Asia in 2023.

Read also: SGD1 to RM3.5: Ringgit hits another all-time low; expert explains 3 reasons for the fall of ringgit

Malaysian authorities have warned against “brain drain,” as more skilled and semi-skilled workers have sought employment elsewhere.

This may result in “financial ramifications since a significant portion of those employed abroad originated from the Malaysian education system”.

The authorities added that Malaysians who work overseas should be encouraged to return, saying that a shift in perspective is needed, meaning “that the Malaysian diaspora will eventually return to Malaysia after a predetermined period, thereby contributing their acquired expertise and experiences back to the country.”

In July 2022, Mr Daniel Moss wrote in a Bloomberg Opinion column, “To graduate to the next tier of prosperous economies, Malaysia must staunch the flow of talented citizens abroad.” /TISG

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


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