Wednesday, May 03, 2006

the braindrain reason

The Sunday Star published an article the other day based on a study conducted by the UK Executive Council for Malaysian students. They tried to investigate the reason as to why Malaysians are reluctant to return home after their studies. It is an 'interesting' article to say the least, because it attempts to look at various angles and to disect the problem at the source.

Click image to enlarge

I could go on and say that the UKEC probably got their data from students, in which case a lot of the reasons in that article are not valid - because let's face it, what does a student know about a working environment? Heck, for the data to hold any shred of credibility, the only people who are qualified to make such an assessment is someone who has worked in BOTH the UK and Malaysia. But for argument's sake, let's just assume all is right and dandy.

So, that article to various discussions and comments, most notably by the Higher Education Minister, Datuk Mustapa Mohamad.

Money is not everything, students told

"As a developing country, it is impossible for Malaysia to match the salaries of doctors in Britain. We don't have such deep pockets.

"Money should not be everything," he told about 100 Malaysian students at a dialogue organised by the Malaysian Students Department in London yesterday.

Of course, telling a bunch of Chinese that "money isn't everything" is kind of a foolish thing to do. (That was a joke, please laugh).

For all that's worth, it is no big secret that I myself tried to secure a job in the UK after I graduated. It was my plan to work there for a few years, make a lot of money, and then come home loaded with British Pounds. And to be fair, I wouldn't begrudge anybody who did the same. Saving a mere £300 per month working in the UK would already be equivalent to the average pay a fresh graduate engineer is paid in Malaysia. Like I said, it was my plan to work in the UK for a few years and return (because you only get rich when you convert your pounds into ringgit, see). That said, many people might have initially planned to do the same, but ended up getting used to the lifestyle overseas (and met a lovely British bird) and decided not to come home afterall.

I do not begrudge all that. We all live to fulfil our ambitions, and if those ambitions take you some place else, then all's fair.

Yet, as I was reading all that and thinking, "Something's not right here." That remark of his led to various comments by various young people saying that "Patriotism doesn't put food on the table". I was actually amused by such comments, for these people seem to be implying that doctors and engineers and lawyers in Malaysia are struggling to 'put food on the table'. Your ambitions are yours and yours to fulfil. Do not try to justify something that cannot be justified. Do not try to make it out as if you would be stone poor if you were to return.

Among the reasons given for wanting to work in the UK was 'career advancement' but again, I suspect that that means nothing more than 'I want more money.' The thing is, if you were good enough to get a job in the UK after all the competition from the British citizens themselves and the EU citizens, then chances are you are pretty darn good and shouldn't have a problem securing a job with a big MNC or GLC in Malaysia, which is pretty much one of the best starts for 'career advancements'. From the engineering point of view, short of Airbus (who incidentally doesn't employ non-EU citizens), there aren't really many companies that have operations which are not covered by similar MNCs in Malaysia.

What probably peeves me off the most is that the government is practically begging people to come back and serve. One of the steps taken by the government to attract these people is to make their pay almost comparable to what they would be getting overseas. What we have reduced ourselves to become? Begging our citizens to serve us? Creating merceneries? Patriotism cannot be forced upon people. Let them come back when they are ready. Let them come back if they want to. When they decide to return, welcome them like you would a prodigal son. But do not, do not bait them with wads of cash. If cash is all that a doctor is interested in, then they are doctors who we probably do not want anyway.

Here you go, the real reason why Malaysians don't want to come home after they study:

This is different from the one above. Click to read.


forgive my stupidity... by the way, vincent, why did you go back to malaysia? um... to me i started loving the country i am now. ya i have the same thought as what you said. staying and working here for a few years as the working conditions here are better. last time when i went back to malaysia, i simply found that i can't work for such long hours (some people work for more than 12 hours and take it normally)...

Your joke is funny yet true , most chinese who study overseas now will be thiking the same thing : Is Mustapha/that old hag mad ?

To be honest, I would of course like to work overseas for a few years. Save a decent amount of money so that I can buy a nice sports car or start my family.
But at the end of the day, this is Malaysia. You've stated something that goes along the lines of Malaysia being fault-ridden. But its still Malaysia. And I love Malaysia.
Am I patriotic? What say you Vincent?


1st hand info, u can get 1 million in 2 yrs if ur grad doctor with Masters in the UK, M'sia can never equal that

doctors with Masters can work 2 yrs in UK to earn 1 million and retire for the rest of her lives, u can clarify with nanook if u want.


You guys misunderstand. I am not denying that the money is good. It is far better. It is great. Malaysia cannot match that, at least not in the near future. Money isn't just one of the factors - it is the MAIN factor.

My peeve is that the government were trying to tempt people back with money. That, I cannot accept. We should let our doctors and scientists return when they want, on their own free will.


Let me know if you need a supplier of green fanta for your blog. :P

I think the key thing to understanding this whole 'braindrain' issue is just that.. understanding. The reason most of us don't want to go home to Malaysia to work SO SOON AFTER GRADUATING, is mainly one of money, as you have correctly pointed out and for doctors, career advancement. However, contrary to the government's and Malaysian publics' belief, we do intend to return to Malaysia EVENTUALLY.. so there is a sense of patriotisim in us at the end of the day. But that guy was semi-right, patriotism doesn't put food on the table. (Granted, if we'd work at home, we can afford food, but we might not be able to afford the greater luxuries in life, which we would if we brought back the Sterling Pound! :) Hehe..)

Anyway, just for your info, career advancement is a big big issue for doctors. Simply because, the postgrad training programme for doctors in Malaysia isn't nearly as good as that of the UK, for obvious reasons. But ironically, it's also ridiculously difficult to get into, as there are limited spaces and tough competition. Whereas in the UK, almost everyone who wants to further their studies and pursue a more specialised field will have the opportunity to do so. Sounds like a better deal, innit?


Ooh, one more important thing. In the UK, you don't have to deal with the typical, completely sitoopid things that Malaysia is so famous for: politics, race-issues, women-issues, cronism (is that how you spell it?), everything but meritocracy, bribery, completely ignorant and tidak-apa attitudes.. just to name a few!

Jean - with the new immigration rules coming out, the deal isn't looking as good as it was, eh?

Yes... yes... now it's the "us vs the rest of Malaysia whom we presume have never been anywhere outside" school of thought.

The operative word there is actually school. I think I should supply orange and red fanta as well. Just for variety, you know. Let me know how much you need, Vincent.


jean : Politics and cronism exist in EVERY society everywhere in the world. Have you worked in Malaysia? Have you faced those so-called 'racial problems'? Why the stereotype? Is it because you heard of a story from a friend of a friend?

I reckon people are missing the point completely.

If Malaysian students studying outside of Malaysia wanted to come back, they would do it regardless of reason or preferences. The ones who indulge in self-justification are usually those who don't want to come back; but don't want to be seen as ungrateful / unpatriotic bastards or even wannabe angmohs. Free will rules, if you don't want to do something then don't, but don't bore the crap out of other people with your rhetorical reasons and explanations.

Case in point: During my student days, I made more money delivering beer to pubs around Melbourne than any fresh grad who was starting work in Malaysia ($500 per week as compared to RM 1,800 per month). I could have taken on a professional position that paid even more after I graduated, but that would mean ending up as some foreigner who needs a work permit to earn a living. So I came back to earn my living in RM.

Cronyism? Racism? You find that shit happening everywhere, even in the UK and the States. Oldham race riots, anyone? Halliburton, anyone? Green fanta, anyone?


Yingci: You're right, it doesn't! Oh well, what's the worse that'll happen, go home?

Vincent: As a matter of fact, I have experienced it first-hand at home.. so don't even try to patronize me, Mr-I-think-I-know-it-all. Haven't you heard of the ''race' glass ceiling'? Look around you, open your eyes, you can try to deny it as much as you can, but it still doesn't change the fact that it happens. (Especially in the government sector)

Yes, racism/cronism/whatever exists all over the world, in all kinds of different societies, but the difference is, it's actually 'accepted' in Malaysia and no one seems to be doing anything about it. Nor does it look like things are going to change in the next 5-10 years. Malaysians seem to have accepted this fact and learn to work around it. Now I'm not saying that this is necessarily a bad thing, but I certainly haven't learned to accept it quite so well.


Of course I have heard of the race glass ceiling - its a common excuse given by chinese and indians when they aren't good enough to make it to the very top. It's a good excuse too.

If you fail, you can always blame the colour of your skin, and if you succeed, heck, victory is sweeter when you say "I made it to the top IN SPITE of my yellow skin"

Of course I might...MIGHT just face it one day, but at least I am going into it with a pair of colour blind eyes and an unbiased mind. More Malaysians should learn to do that you know. It amuses me when people say they haven't learnt to accept it. Like, how many years have you been living there already?

Besides, on other 'racial' matters. Its the same everywhere you know. I don't think you would find an Asian CEO heading a British company. And never mind if you have a work permit of not, Airbus does NOT employ non-EU citizens last I heard. Some people might call that 'racist' you know.


jean, you probably wanna read about vincent's past entries before complaining to him with that statement. he did talk about this racism in govt issue.





just to add a new twist... it'd be interesting to note that the UKEC in conducting their little survey failed to miss out on a big proportion of malaysia's most wanted - the scientists in Imperial College. While the brain drain of doctors is interesting, the engineers and scientists over here are going "huh? how come nobody ask us why we dowan to go home wan?"
and that's an even more interesting answer. ask any of us where research is going in malaysia, and we'd truthfully tell you - no where! we're more interested in hunting down a big foot in johor than joining in the search to find a cure for avian flu. the bio valley is an embarrasing ghost town. university academics cannot entangle themselves from political will. our private hospitals don't even have the latest equipment for cancer treatment (and this I know because the doctors in SJMC sent my dad down to Singapore). How lah like that?
Nope money isn't everything. Researchers here don't get paid big bucks either. Would be interesting to find out why they stay behind...


If the UKEC obtained their data from students, it is in fact more relevent to the topic at hand. After all, it is the students that decide if they want to return to Malaysia. And to make that decision, they use the data that they have. It may not be accurate, but these [data] are the exact factors pulling and pushing them.

Lets just pray that they don't forget about the ones who are already back home. :P

Like I mentioned before, students who actually wanted to come home woudl have done so all on their own. The ones who don't want to come home would have buggered off on their own too.

The ones who hang around here indulging in self-justification are the wankers who are prolly putting off their assignments. Wankers.

Green fanta, anyone?


hi, vincent. Im not so sure where u got that information about airbus not employing non-EU citizens, but here in Bristol UK im sure i know a couple of Malays who have been working with airbus for several years now. Not any kinda job there, but currently they are working on the design of the Airbus A380 wings. And being the most talked about plane in the world nowadays, that sure is a big position innnit? and there also a few other indonesian and pakistanis working there. but i dont know if u mean they are not taking any new ones.

Anon : An Airbus bloke told me when I enquired at a career's fair.

darn it, it was because nobody cared about a simple survey that we wanna organize. haha, i think ukec should be debolished =P maybe we should start a new, proper organization that ppl can learn to respect heh.

to each its own ...to each its own, vincent...

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