Monday, May 01, 2006

"Weighing" Brain Drain

Brain drain is once again a subject of discussion among UK graduates, according to a recent Star report. Among two of the reasons cited by that report include "peanut salaries and an obsession with world-record breaking".

In any discussion of brain gain, one needs to clearly delineate our parameters. For example, when discussing the costs of brain gain, we are often assuming a 'national' perspective, rather than a personal perspective. An overseas graduate who works at Goldman Sachs in London, goes on to do an MBA at Stanford, then goes to work for Google in California before leaving to build his or her own start up might have achieved the best career path for himself or herself but our country might have lost in terms of reaping the benefits of this person working in Malaysia (foregone taxes, new businesses created etc...)

For the purposes of this discussion, I'll take on the 'national' perspective and I'll focus only on overseas students choosing not to come back home rather than those who leave Malaysia to search for better work opportunities overseas.

Firstly, when counting the 'national' costs, we need to break it down according to occupational sectors. If 100 students decide to stay back and do their CPA in London, the national costs would be lower if 100 students doing medicine decide to practice in the UK. The latter category is much harder to replace compared to the former category. Having this breakdown also helps us reach out to target groups and find out the specific factors which are keeping these students from coming back home.

For example, many doctors who are trained overseas might find the housemanship requirements back home excessively strenous. I had a friend who graduated from Melbourne University with a medical degree and wanted to try out the local system. He was sent to Kota Bahru where he lasted for only 2 weeks primarily because of poor working conditions. He's now a happy father and GP in Singapore.

Out of all the peers that my wife and I know who studied medicine overseas (Singapore, UK and Australia), probably 95% did not return to Malaysia.

I don't know the stats for other key occupational sectors such as software engineers, biologists and other PhD holders but the returning statistics (from my impressionistic 'study') for medical students is certainly a cause for concern especially since we are currently facing a shortage of doctors.

Secondly, we have to ask where these students are not returning from. In other words, is there a higher likelihood of students not returning if they have studied overseas in certain countries? My sense is, yes. Those who studied in NUS or NTU in Singapore are very unlikely to come back to Malaysia. There are a few reasons for this. For one, many Malaysians studying in NUS or NTU receive scholarships of one sort or another from the Singapore government. One of the requirements of these scholarships is that upon graduation, these students must work in Singapore for a minimum of 3 years. Compare this to the UK where it is very difficult for a non-EU citizen to obtain a work permit. After working for 3 years in Singapore, the Singapore government is hoping that these students would have married, settled down and be too used to living in Singapore to want to move back to Malaysia.

Again, from my experience, almost all of my friends who studied in NUS or NTU ended up staying, working and settling down in Singapore. Many of my friends who did their O levels and A levels in Singapore but pursued their undergraduate and post graduate education overseas also ended up going back to Singapore to work. Many of them, incidentally, are doctors. One went to Melbourne, another to Sydney, another to New South Wales, another to Edinburgh, but all of them ended back up in Singapore.

Knowing your target 'markets' will help you identify the reasons why they are not coming back, whether this is a concern and possibly find remedial measures.

Thirdly, we have to ask whether those not returning are predominantly scholarship or non-scholarship holders. For example, the national costs for JPA sponsorees not returning is higher compared to a non-sponsoree. This problem is exacerbated when JPA and other scholarship boards are not vigilant in tracking down these non-returnees and asking them to pay back their bonds. I'm supportive of the crackdown on those who have taken PTPN loans and have refused to pay them back even though they have decent paying jobs. Many of my friends who have gone overseas on JPA scholarships also don't seem to feel the urgency to pay back these bonds, partly because of the presumption that JPA won't crack down on them.

If many JPA sponsorees are not returning, then perhaps the terms of these scholarships need to be re-examined. Maybe means-testing for the eligibility to receive these scholarships need to take place. Or the terms of the bond tightened e.g. market based interest rates and collection of bonds enhanced.

Fourthly, we need to start collecting data on longer term brain drain trends. We talk about this year in year out but nobody, at least to my knowledge, has done anything close to a comprehensive study of this subject. Government ministries such as the Human Resource Ministry, the Public Service Commission and the Higher Education Ministry would clearly have an interest in conducting such studies but sadly, none have been done. Instead we have to rely on voluntary bodies such as the UKEC to do their own straw polls (Incidentally, when I last looked at the UKEC website, they have only received 50 responses (which presumably is what their initial report is based on) to their straw poll.

My sense is that the brain drain problem is not so serious among graduates with engineering, economics, business or accountancy degrees. Most of my peers in the UK with these degrees have come back to work in Malaysia, partly because it is not easy to get a work permit to work in the UK (other than doing a CPA). There are other reasons such as family and being bonded to an organization. I think that poor pay is not as big of a deal as some UK graduates make it out to be. You don't earn big bucks by working for one of the Accountancy firms (E&Y, Deloitte, etc...) and doing your CPA at the same time. Living in London is very expensive. You don't get to drive a car. You live in a small, cramped appartment. If you come back home to work, you can live in a bigger place, drive a car, be around your friends and family and so on.

The career path argument is perhaps more valid. But there are many things which one can achieve by coming back to Malaysia. Tony started his own company. There are more opportunities now in both the public and private sector. Khazanah is employing many bright business types (including some of my ex-colleagues from BCG) and paying them decent salaries. Consultancies such as BCG and McKinsey have offices in the region. I-banking outfits such as CIMB and boutiques such as ECM Libra also provide competitive salaries and corporate exposure. Many multinational companies have an operational and marketing presence in Malaysia including Microsoft, HP, Dell, P&G, Motorola, HSBC and so on.

Where I think there should be greater concern is the lack of returnees in certain occupational sectors. I've already identified the medical field as one of them. I'm not sure how serious the problem is among software engineers or those involved in the hard sciences. I think that the lack of returnees among PhD holders is also a concern especially given the sad state of our local universities. So if the government is concerned about brain drain, I hope they can think through the issues systematically and asses the key areas of concern and find specific remedial measures rather than aim for more general strategies (such as making it easier for students to bring back luxury cars that they've bought while overseas) which are poorly targetted.

30 comments:

BMHS said...

My best friend (top student in high school; Form 1-5) was offered scholarship to do A-Level and medical degree in Singapore. He will be graduating this year and bonded to S'pore for the next 7 years. I doubt he'll be coming back to M'sia after that. Reasons:
(1) He'll have to ba HO/MO for another few years before being able to do private practice or even applying for postgrad.
(2) He will be paid peanuts when he comes back. Even with many years of experience (and at age >33).
(3) Most likely he will have to also sit for the local board examinations (I hope I am wrong here).
(4) He is a Chinese, which means he will be easily (culturally) absorbed into S'pore.
(5) For reason no 4, he is very much aware of many lost opportunities and career hardship he will be facing if he comes back.
(6) Lucrative job offer in Singapore.

dulcinea said...

In recent career talks among Malaysians in Imperial College London (of Science, Technology and Medicine... yes, we're all geeks)... there was a general understanding that going back home would be our last choice. Science graduates from Imperial (whether pure sciences or engineers or mathematicians) have been quickly snapped up by the big investment banks and accounting firms that pay us ridiculously well, an average of 35K pounds pro rata a year. There seems to be no need to go home if we receive such an offer, work hard for 10 years, and we've made it.
And even if we didn't want to take on the evil-merciless corporate path... as engineers Intel/Google/Shell are all out to get us. As scientists GSK and Pfizer would have their hands on us offering huge research grants. Not to mention down south in Singapore, there is no limit to the money A*Star would pay for a good researcher.

And when the idea of big pay packages has stopped making us feel giddy, we realise to an extent that working overseas is a meritocratic career path you eke out for yourself. Going back home, can we be guaranteed the same?

But at the end of the day, who doesn't want to go home? We all do and dream of the day we can go home without fearing that we've missed out on greater opportunities in life and a satisfying career.

Anonymous said...

Speaking about high living cost in London, that's definitely true. A friend of mine, whom his sister is working in London, bought a 100 year-old apartment last year at a whopping GBP100K. But then, guess the size of the apartment..... 10m by 10m only. Wonder how many bungalow can you get in Malaysia with that amount of money. The food there are kind of expensive too, but then, why would she not return to Malaysia? That, i think i will have to ask my friend :P but i guess the reasons are more or less what we already known....

I agree that JPA should do a part in this brain drain phenomenon, a BIG one. They should have a contract, something alike to sponsorship by companies, to tie the students down. These students are to return to work for let say 2 to 3 years in Malaysia registered companies. Failing to do that will make them pay for the amount of sponsorship. Something like what is been done in Singapore and other countries.

Although one may think that why tied down our own citizens, as usually this applies only to foreigners. But come to think about it, we don't really have much choice though. At least we have a continous supply of quality graduates to contribute to the development of the country. Perhaps there are other better ways out there anyway. Just my two cents...

Kian Ming said...

Dear dulcinea,

I was wondering if the I-banks and accounting firms differentiate between EU and non-EU citizens? I was under the impression that it was much harder for non-EU citizens to get a work permit even if it was for I-banking jobs. Furthermore, I was under the impression that I-banks pay much more than accounting firms. Please enlighten me since I left the UK in 1999.

Anonymous said...

BMHS - Just out of curiosity, does part of your initials stand for 'Bukit Mertajam'? If so, I believe I know the person in question.

Coming back to the topic - I can speak for doctors only, but among this group, the primary aim is to get the best training possible. If going/remaining abroad is the price to pay, then it will be paid. Pay isn't among the reasons - we all know how much further our Ringgit goes in Malaysia compared to, say the Pound in Britain. If we had a proper training programme, and it doesn't have to have a long history (look at Singapore), many doctors overseas would jump at the chance to go back. Sadly, despite what our politicians say, our training system is NOT on par with those abroad, coupled with the fact that meritocracy is pushed aside in favour of... well, you know what it is, in gaining entry to such programmes. And by the way, whoever heard of the passing rate for postgraduate training being more than 90%?

Government must take heed - it is not money we want, but a fair chance and a level playing field. (I suspect those who responded to the UKEC survey are not representative. For instance, n=50+ only, and if I know Malaysians, those who are aware of the real reasons will be too afraid to state them publicly, even in a survey.) If it continues to ignore this, all efforts at wooing talent back will fail.

good boy said...

What kind of mental for this Tony and some readers?

If you want to help the poor people, why not help also the poor Indian man?

This is the most wonderful question I never understand in Malaysia.

Can some person give me the answer?

Are you saying that you never see one poor Chinese man in your long life?

Tony, are you going to write the same topics (quality and facility) again and again and again?

What can you expect this kind of mental, can solve the problems in Malaysia?

Enough is enough.

Anonymous said...

dear good boy

I can hardly figure our what you're saying............

Anonymous said...

Firstly, lets consider a self-sponsored overseas grad thinking of returning to Malaysia to work. There will be a couple of things going through his mind:

1. The pay - A "competitive" starting salary in Malaysia is in the region of RM 2.5k x 12 = RM 30k/yr. The "average" salary you can get as an engineer in the UK is GBP 25k. Try a little harder, and getting into an investment bank would ensure a starting salary of GBP 35k, not including the bonuses you will be getting.

2. The ROI (return on investment)- For argument's sake, lets assume that Charlotte is studying in the UK at a relatively "affordable" university:
annual tuition fees, GBP 10k
+ annual living expenses, GBP 5k
= GBP 15k per year

Assuming she's doing a 3-year Bachelor's degree, the total cost of education would be GBP 45k, which equates to approximately MYR 300k (using current GBP/MYR of 6.55. It was 6.8 previously). Let's say she has a very rich grand uncle who agress to loan her that amount of money, interest free, with the condition that she has to start paying him back when she starts working.

So now Charlotte has finished her degree, and she comes back to work, with a "competitive" starting salary of RM 30k/yr, with an increase of 20% per year (which is near impossible). Even at this rate, it would take at least 6 years to earn the equivalent of the RM 300k spent on her education. If you factor in taxes, living costs etc, it would take closer to 12-20 years for her to repay her grand uncle. This means she would probably be in her mid-30s, with a family, and worse of all -> ZERO savings for rainy days or for her kids' education fund!

In real life, you don't have a benevolent grand uncle, an interest-free loan or a 20% year-on-year increase in salary among other things. How long would it take then to pay back the costs of studying overseas, and then start "reaping the fruits of your superior education", beginning from square one?

3. Finally, monetary considerations aside, everybody would like to work in a meritocratic society, where a person is given his due based on his own performance. We don't mind competition in the industry we're working in as long as it's fair competition. We also want transparent, open government policies that encourage growth, and not inhibit it. Is this possible in Malaysia? IMHO, NO.

I would only come back to work for the three 'F's that I care about the most: Family, Friends and Food!


Secondly, let's consider now Malaysia's initiatives for increasing the amount of knowledge workers in Malaysia:

1. Malaysia does very little to recognise talent when they see it (if they see it). Singapore has always been actively attracting some of our most promising students with full scholarships at secondary school, pre-university colleges and even university level. Singapore has numerous scholarships for outstanding students, offering them the opportunity to study at any university of their choice (as long as they get admitted) with generous allowances.

2. The Malaysian government is not discriminating enough when doling out the few scholarships that they have on offer. Being a student studying overseas myself, I see a HUGE disparity between the standards of Malaysian scholars with respect to those of our neighbour down south.

Malaysian scholars in most cases are not required to get first class honours (the UK) system, and are only required to pass their examinations. On the other hand, Singaporean scholars are obliged to get at least a second class uppers, with the view that their scholarships may be retracted if they don't. Due to this policy (and also, IMHO the lack of quality among Malaysian scholars), Malaysian scholars usually never, ever do as well as the Singaporean scholars.


With these reasons in mind it's no wonder that Malaysia is currently (and will, for the foreseable future if nothing changes) facing a huge, huge brain drain.

Anonymous said...

To anonymous above,

I work for Intel in Malaysia, and I can say that the work we're doing is world class (I have also worked in US for 4 years, so I do have an idea of what is world class and what is not). If you're concerned about meritocracy, join an MNC. There are many in Malaysia and meritocracy is fully practiced. For myself (US engineering grad) I am convinced that I made the right decision to return home.

Obviously, you DO get lower purchasing power than if you're staying in a developed country. That is to be expected. However, I get a comfortable salary and would rather spend time with family and my aging parents than get that 60" plasma TV.

For some jobs (ie. if you want to teach in a university), it's difficult to get an environment that practices meritocracy. However, if you're in engineering, it's very easy and is frankly a Money vs. Family decision at that point. I don't think your career path is limited by returning to Malaysia.

Anonymous said...

the brain drain issue also depends heavily on the field the graduate is in. if in academia, there is practically no where to teach and research apart from the public universities. and we all know the problems our universities face. for other areas like engineering, business, etc. then it is more possible for these graduates to return after their studies. perhaps maybe get some professional work experience of a few years before returning.

i think in general, those who go overseas will want to come back eventually. no one wants to be a foreigner in another land. home is where the heart is. but however, many also want to progress in their careers first. rack up the experience and save up, then return home after 5-10 years post-studies.

regarding bonding and defaulting of loans. there is no contract agreement available that will force any student to return home. i have an example to share. my friend is pursuing her medical stuides in london under a JPA scholarship. a value well over half a million, but i think more likely to be close to a million ringgit. do u guys know what are the clauses if she defaults on it and not return? she will only be rquired to pay a measly RM160k, which is nothing when you're a doctor in UK. what kind of clauses and stipulations the government creates?!? we need to crackdown on these selfish scholars who think of personal wealth and not wanting to come back and serve after being given the opportunity to study in UK for all 5 years of their med school.

the only way is to have a guarantor that can be fined double of the defaulters loan.

nUtZ` said...

As a brain drainer whom have fled to Australia, here are my reasons for leaving.

1) Better governmnet. Australian government is way less wasteful than Malaysian government. I am rather tired of seeing my tax money going into white elephants and useless projects while our schools are getting neglected. Oh and my tax returns are gurenteed to be paid back in 10 days. Usually I'll get my tax return in 4 to 5 working days.

2) Better lifestyle. I can not own a car and still be able to get around Australia. I am looking forward to do my Masters in a proper university environment and being supported by the government through PELS scheme and tax deductions.

3) BETTER TRAFFIC. Besides Sydney, traveling around cities in Australia is quite a relaxing task. You don't have to deal with some corrupt police(wo)men or crazy drivers.

4) Things are acctually affordable here. you might have to pay 10 bucks for a plate of char koay teow, but the size of the plate you can share it with 3 people back in malaysia. Oh and you get the big prawns too.

Like someone said, I go back to malaysia for the 3'F's food friends and family. If I do stay in Malaysia, I do not see a future for myself or my family. My children will be discriminated at school. Education will be extremely expensive. And I'll die earlier due to all the pollution in the air.

Anonymous said...

I agree the government must crack down those who got the PTPN loans and refused to payback.

I have an example in my work place; the HR manager refused to back back the PTPN loan. He said, "why should I pay them back if others are not doing it?"

The PTPN can work with the LHDN so that their monthly installment is automatically deducted from their salary. I don't know if this will work, but just my suggestion.

Anonymous said...

GBP 5k for annual living expenses in the UK? You must be kidding. I would say GBP 5500 to GBP 7000

Anonymous said...

To the anonymous above:

You're absolutely right about the living expenses being GBP 5000. When posting the comment, I was using the BARE minimum, and assuming that you scrounge and save every single penny that you get. My own living expenses is more towards the region of GBP 6500/yr.

Also, unless you get some sort of bursary from the university, school fees of GBP 10k is also considered below the average. (my university's current tuition fees is approaching north of GBP 15k)

To: The kind sir who works in Intel,

Thank you for enlightening me on the job scene in Malaysia. I would agree that Intel Malaysia is a world class organisation, as it is the second biggest producer of Intel microprocessor chips aside from Intel's factory in the US.

I have no doubt that there are world class MNCs in Malaysia. However, my main concern is nevertheless the inability of these companies to attract overseas Malaysian talent to come home to work.

I can use a certain MNC in the microprocessor business in Malaysia as a very good example. This company came to my university for a recruitment drive (one of the top universities in the UK for technology), and also to invite students to intern back in Malaysia over the Summer. The company's recruitment drive was mediocre, they didn't follow up with the students whose emails they obtained. Additionally, a couple of my friends did the internship Malaysia, but weren't very impressed with the work that they were given, as the internship programme was not very structured.

This MNC is definitely a very highly looked upon MNC. However, its efforts, similar to those of a lot of other companies, in terms of recruiting overseas talent leaves much to be desired.

Anonymous said...

Just out of curiosity, how much are high tech workers (engineers, programmers, etc) being paid in Malaysia on average these days, perhaps looking at just the starting salaries? To my understanding, the salary range has not budge much over the last decade or so, and with the skyrocketing living costs in big cities such as KL, Penang and JB, how can one expect fresh graduates to make a proper living, especially those having to move from other smaller towns into those big city areas?

In regards to MNCs, most of them that put up recruiting ads or places at universities are mostly doing it out of publicity sake, especially when there is a downturn in the economy.

Just sidetracking a bit, here's an interesting website that reveals the ugly side of Intel and it has a few stories from Intel Penang as well: http://www.faceintel.com/

Anonymous said...

To answer the above Anon,

I believe the average pay these days for fresh graduates in the IT and engineering fields starts from RM1,600 to RM2,400. This depends on your qualifications and abilities. Employees with 3-5 yrs exp should get around RM2,500 - RM3,500. Again, depends on company, qualifications (local or overseas), experience, technical abilities, etc. Senior staff with >7 yrs exp should get around RM4,000 - 6,000 pending on company size, technicality, etc.

I believe this are just about the market rates out there. Can anyone confirm with me on this?

Anonymous said...

Another F I would consider after Family, Friend and Food is Future (of the next generation and future of Malaysia as a developed nation). If high up there is a real intention and focus to develop and improve. There are plenty of good views and suggestions outthere on blogs, and forums already and I am waiting patiently.

Jia Hong said...

(to Kian Ming) about I-banking in UK:

I don't think the I-banking firms here bother if u r EU or non-EU, but for certain roles in certain region (sales for e.g.) - EU stands an advantage culturally and linguistically. This is true at least for all the bulge-bracket firms...and they make a point to provide equal opportunities for all.

Just that sadly Asians tend to be less outspoken - so may find it harder otherwise!

Actually £35k starting is not much internationally, as HK can pay higher due to expat status & also low taxes. The starting pay applies to interns too, hence the competition!

Relative to accounting (£25-28k) and consultancy (£28-30k), pay 4 I-banking is significantly higher, b'cuz of bonuses. But even so, the starting pay is peanuts compared to what one can earn after 5 years at a VP level (provided one can last that long). However, this varies according to the type of I-banking jobs. (much more for front office, lesser for backoffice)

Having said that, M'sia is not such a bad place once u reach a certain (seniority) level...

Anonymous said...

yes, agreed with anon above. malaysia pays well to senior staff. too well in my opinion. on average, low-level management starts at least RM6k/mnth upwards to RM15k/mnth. senior management starts at RM10k/mnth.

but the problem here is not with senior level staff, but in fact fresh grads. the get paid peanuts starting at RM1.6k/mnth to RM2k/mnth. which is way too low. this is clearly exploitation of human resource by employers. and the gov has the chic to slam employees who jump companies?!? the reality is this: employers don't care about its employees. they know if u quit, there'll be 100 others waiting to pounce on you. it's clear intimidation.

no wonder these days all fresh grads and young adults <28 yrs dream of running their own business and not work for others simple because they want to be a part of that vicious exploitation for their own gains and profits. this is a very worrying trend.

Brian said...

Hi all,

In regarding to post doc / reseach fellow position (fresh PhD) in universities/institute:

Singapore A*star pays ~4500 SingDollars per month (the lowest level of course)
Australian Unis pays ~50k AUD per annum

Would you/I come back and work for the highest-paid private unis ? Let's evaluate the opportunities:

MMU pays fresh PhD ~3700RM per month
Monash Uni Malaysia pays fresh PhD ~6000RM per month
UTAR pays fresh ~4000RM per month

Not to take into consideration the constraints:
1) IRPA grant applications: issues concerning inclusion of bumi researcher in project; length of project revision; and etc
2) Lack of labs/equipments
3) Lack of quality/top class collaboration
.......

Just my 2cents worth

dulcinea said...

Dear Kian Ming,
sorry for the late reply - May being exam season and we being the hunted.

Jia Hong is right, I-Banks don't differentiate between EU and non-EU anymore. If you're the best brain out there, they'll do anything to get you. And we aren't being paid any less than our EU counterparts.

Now if Malaysia had a better environment that would allow for more I-banks to open up branches and allow us to come back and work as expats in our own country (I have friends who do that in Singapore) wouldn't life be peachy!

Anonymous said...

Following up on dulcinea's comments above, it is true that in the UK, so long as you join the major I Banks or (Big 4) Accounting firms after your degree, work permit is not an issue. Having said that, it is still an extremely competitive market and by and large, many graduates still do not secure jobs in London after graduating.

It is true that the Accounting firms do have a lower starting pay than the I Banks. However, it is worth keeping in mind that graduates joining the accountancy firms enjoy a very supportive/ structured training program, which includes generous (fully paid) study leave, fully sponsored exam/ tuition costs, all leading to a prestigous ACA/ CA qualification at the end of 3 years. Big 4 trained ACA/ CA's are in high demand to move into industry, investment banks and niche consultancies post qualification.

jeleow said...

I'm a JPA scholar on a convertible bond and will be working with a major oil company in the UK upon my graduation from the LSE. Don't blame me for not heading back immediately after my graduation. I do intend to pay back my bond, and I do intend to return to Malaysia in the long run. However, you must understand that the major reasons for me to remain here in the UK would be firstly, the higher starting salary, secondly, the more rigorous and challenging early experience programs where clear empowerment is encouraged, and thirdly, the greater ease to make my mark in the future. The JPA scholarship has opened my eyes to the countless opportunities available overseas. To condemn those who have become aware of opportunities and who move to seize them enthusiastically is exactly the kind of attitude that is driving the best of brains away from Malaysia.

Anonymous said...

Dear Dulcinea,

Are/were you from Imperial?

Anonymous said...

I think the main reason why working in Malaysia is so off-putting is because it does not, and will never practise meritocracy. High-ranking posts in the government sectors will always be reserved for a selected few based on trivial reasons like skin colour. How on earth can Malaysia attain the status of a developed country when second best doctors are promoted? The worst bit of all is that the Malaysian government is not doing this discreetly, but putting race ahead of merit is the law. I find this absolutely absurd but then again it's just my opinion. So if your own country treats you like a 2nd class citizen and refuses you promotion, what difference does it make if we work overseas?

Anonymous said...

I have personally have no problems with graduates working overseas. However, I am utterly disappointed with those under scholarship who refuse to come back and serve. Remember, getting a scholarship is a privelege, not a right.

Anonymous said...

The main reason why I'm not returning to Malaysia is the salary. I'm obtained my medical degree in Ireland 6 years ago and have stayed on to work here. As a registrar in orthopaedics, with overtime, I make Euro7000-8000 a month (RM31500 - RM36000). This doesn't include the education grant of Euro 3800 a year! Added on to of that 6 weeks paid (including averaged overtime) annual leave a year, 4 weeks study leave a year, 1 week course leave a year and 1 week conference leave a year!!! Not to mention salary increments adjusted for inflation - in effect, I get 2 increments a year - once in January when they adjust for inflation, and once in July when I go up the payscale. All these benefits, and oh yes, not to forget, I am still a trainee...
Compare this with the salary in Malaysia, the poor benefits offered and the lack of training and professional medical development, of course I will remain overseas.
That's not to say I do not miss home. Family, friends, food and sunshine...with the amount of leave I can take, I do get a healthy dose of it every year, in between travelling around europe.
Work benefits is not the only thing keeping me here. Differences in lifestyle attitudes plays a big role. The employer here accepts that people work to live, unlike in malaysia where people are treated no better than paid slaves (except the MNC's).
Hence, the amount of time I can devote to activities outside of work is huge. Got a pilots license 2 years ago. Recently, jointly bought a yacht with 5 friends. And oh yes....I am still a junior doctor.
Would I like to return to Malaysia....yes, very much so. But not to a country where doctors are treated badly, overworked, underpaid and underappreciated.
What I say to the Malaysian government is to treat people right, and they will come flocking back. As long as the mentality persists that only a 'datuk' or a top politician deserves to be recompensed adequately, the rest of us highly qualified, skilled, overseas professional graduates will view malaysia as a job in hell.

no-brain-dah-lost said...

To Malaysians working abroad, please share with us the impact of the following factors that may influence your decision to come back or not to come back to work or stay in Malaysia:
1. salary
2. career path
3. training opportunities
4. promotion opportunities
5. professional support
6. lifestyle
7. family tie
8. food
9. status of the Malaysian society
10. NEP
11. housing
12. transport
13. recreation
14. your next generation's education burden and needs
15. perception of Malaysia's future in the region and the world
16. perception of your standing in Malaysia (e.g., second class citizen, discriminated by current practices in the country, etc.)

Thank you.

From the responses, we may identify the mother of root causes that lead to brain drain and tackle the issue appropriately.

Anonymous said...

To anonymous (on paying back JPA scholarship)...

I believe JPA Med students in the UK who have done tremendously well in their studies have to pay back 25% of their scholarship value, should they choose not to return to Malaysia.

Anonymous said...

One of the reasons of brain drain I reckon is culture. Many students who went overseas are exposed to liberal cultures such as open practice of one's sexual preferences which is abhorrent in Malaysia.