Stemming brain drain
A Talent Corporation will soon be set up to spearhead the country’s initiative to attract and retain highly skilled human capital.
Every year, some of the best brains in the country – including our top graduates – are being lured away. Hence, the Government’s Talent Corporation’s task is to attract, motivate and retain talents.
WHEN a brilliant young man from Ipoh recently emerged as the top student in his final-year law examinations at Cambridge University, he caught the attention of the nation.
Tan Zhongshan, 23, obtained a first class honours, Bachelor of Arts (Law), from Queens’ College in the University of Cambridge, Britain. Tan also bagged a fistful of coveted prizes, including the Slaughter and May award given by the university’s Law Faculty for those who achieve the best overall performance in the final-year law examinations.
Tan has no doubt done the country proud. But sadly, we will be losing him to Singapore. Come January, Tan will be joining the Singapore Legal Service. This is understandable as he was awarded an Asean scholarship by Singapore’s Education Ministry after completing his A-Levels at the Temasek Junior College there.
Here is a classic case of brain drain. It is a longstanding problem for the country. Programmes have been implemented before to woo the country’s talents back to our shores.
This year, under the 10th Malaysian Plan, the Government created the Talent Corporation to identify skill shortages in key sectors and attract and retain skilled human capital.
The corporation, which will commence next January, will come under the Prime Minister’s Department. Its task: to attract, motivate and retain talents.
It will collaborate with the public ‘As for doctors, many of them work in countries like the United States or Singapore for professional advancement, a culture of sharing and research, and the opportunity to work with people with the same mindset of self-advancement,’ says Malaysian Medical Association president Dr David Quek. and private sectors to develop an integrated National Talent Blueprint by 2011. The corporation will also serve as a one-stop centre to coordinate with relevant government agencies, to ease the entry of skilled workers into the country.
There are currently 784,000 Malaysians working abroad and the corporation is expected to spearhead initiatives to attract the Malaysian diaspora back to the country.
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yakcop has also said that the Government is working to woo back Malaysians abroad by reducing bureaucracy and offering better perks.
However, less than 1% of Malaysians working overseas have returned to the country during the past nine years.
It is reported that among all the countries, Singapore has the highest number of Malaysians, with 303,828 people, followed by Australia with 78,858.
According to a source in the Prime Minister’s Department, the aim of the Talent Corporation is not just to get the diaspora back. It is also looking at the value of engaging them from wherever they are, to contribute to the country.
The corporation will also focus on government scholars in local universities or abroad and chart out their professional development when they return and join the workforce.
Besides that, the corporation will look into retaining highly skilled and talented foreign expatriates so that they can continue working in Malaysia, and enticing foreign expats who used to work here to return.
The source admitted that Malaysians leave the country for many reasons, many of which may not be rectified. However, there are also those who are thinking of
returning due to reasons like ageing parents or exposing their children to their culture, roots and heritage.
“For these Malaysians, the corporation needs to facilitate their return to make the transition as smooth as possible,” he said.
Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) president Dr David Quek said the country does not have a consistent policy of retaining talents.
“It is not just as simple as setting up a Talent Corporation. People decide to work overseas for many reasons, chiefly for (monetary) terms.
“As for doctors, many of them work in countries like the United States or Singapore for professional advancement, a culture of sharing and research, and the opportunity to work with people with the same mindset of self-advancement. There’s no glass ceiling, too,” he said.
Dr Quek added that he knows of two doctors who decided to work in Canada and were willing to take a pay cut for the chance to conduct good quality, in-depth research and get recognition for it.
“The climate of intellectual stimulation and research is not available in Malaysia.”
He said another reason Malaysians choose to work abroad is for their children’s education.
“Even with good results here, there is no guarantee of getting into a good university but in the West, there are many loans and grants for students and also adults to further their studies. There must be more scholarships and loans available for all students here so they feel they belong in the country.”
Malaysian Employers Federation (MEF) executive director Shamsud- din Bardan said the Talent Corporation must establish a database of Malaysian talents overseas and then match it with Malaysia’s requirements.
“This needs to be done in a holistic manner which means that the nation needs to formulate a Human Resources Master Plan,” he said.
He agreed that the multipronged approach of retaining local talent, wooing Malaysian talent back, and attracting foreign talent is critical to the success of the corporation.
“What is important at the end of the day is a net gain of talent for the nation. To attract and retain foreign talents, immigration procedures on application and renewal for expats to work in the countrry need to be transparent, with timelines consistently complied with.
“As an incentive, the Government can offer permanent resident status to expats and their families,” he said.
According to MEF, there are currently about 38,000 expats in the country, compared with about 80,000 at the end of the 1990s.
“Malaysia is attracting more low-skilled foreign workers rather than the experts,” he said.
In terms of working with Malaysians abroad from wherever they are, he said the corporation can establish a community of experts and publicise and recognise their contributions.
However, he said, other matters raised by Malaysians here and abroad, such as the need for a transparent bureaucracy, a meritbased system and non-discriminatory policies, were issues beyond the corporation.
“The Goverment needs political will to put in place policies to be at par with developed nations,” he added.
Major move: Besides wooing the Malaysian diaspora back to our shores, the Talent Corporation will also look into retaining highly skilled foreign expatriates and enticing expats who used to work here.
High quality human capital is a prerequisite in the country’s move towards developed status.
‘The Talent Corporation must establish a database of Malaysian talents overseas and then match it with Malaysia’s requirements,’ says MEF executive director Shamsuddin Bardan.