Brain drain: Understanding the root causes

Extracts from the MInsider, “Brain drain: Understanding the root causes” by Ronald Benjamin

  1. The World Bank official said that Malaysia would have had five times the FDI foreign direct investment if not for its discriminatory policy.
  2. a million skilled Malaysian workers left to overseas without any intention of coming back.
  3. Perkasa has claimed that even the Malays are leaving Malaysia due to the discrimination.

Politicians need to have the courage to take the nation along the right path — especially in creating an environment and cultural mindset for work excellence and in reducing the chronic brain drain.

Some of the problems include-

  1. ethnic and neo-liberal policies that favour big business,
  2. a low-cost labour pool,
  3. poor work culture among the workforce,
  4. the mismatch of supply from the education institutions and the needs of the market,
  5. and the gulf in power relations between the management and employees in the private sector.

These clearly show that development in here is basically:

  1. physical and material
  2. at the expense of human development
  3. resulting in a brain drain from the country.

The first thing that the government should do:

  1. is to conduct a serious survey of local perceptions of discriminatory policies
  2. to take a closer look at our education system and its content,
  3. which seems geared towards theories
  4. while failing to create well-rounded individuals capable of progress through intangible skills such as drive, desire, diplomacy, playfulness, humour, awareness and insight.
  5. There are co-curricular activities in schools that help in these skills,
  6. but are the teachers qualified
  7. and do they take interest in reigniting and explaining learning experiences to students after these activities?
  8. Understanding behaviour that creates success is vital,
  9. and teachers should be role models in facilitating such behaviour in schools. Are our current teachers in schools meeting these criteria?
  10. There is a preoccupation with ethnicity and religious ideology over meritocracy and excellence.

There is also the unresolved mismatch between the skills required by the private sector and the type of vocational training given in training institutes. 

  1. students have gone though robotics studies, but the majority of SMEs are still dependent on manually operated machines. How can skilled workers remain in the country when there are limited avenues to use their skills?
  2. workers lack the necessary culture of excellence to succeed. This is made difficult through a hierarchy-based management structure that is “top down” with wide power differentials and where there are no common goals between management and employees.
  3. Such power differentials in the private sector have prompted highly educated individuals who prefer a “flat” organisation with greater empowerment to leave the country.
  4. They leave behind disgruntled low-wage workers who do not feel a sense of belonging to their organisation and whose only concern centres around wages.
  5. Finally, it is vital to look at supply-and-demand and the resulting productivity of workers within ethnic groups in Malaysia that keeps wages low. We need to examine how the private sector employers evaluate their employees in terms of productivity and recruitment — and how ethnic perceptions come into play — and how these employees are paid accordingly.

This is where the missing link is when academics and government officials discuss increasing productivity, without elaborating on the mindset of employers on how they pay their workers.

Low wages are linked to low productivity

— Ronald Benjamin is an Aliran member based in Ipoh.

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