Malaysia is one of the affected countries with the brain drain issue. “Malaysia aims to become one of the big high income nations by 2020, but the increasing rate of brain drain restrains it to reach that aim. Malaysia’s population as of 2009 was 27.5 million, where at least 800,000 and up to 1.5 million Malaysians were living abroad” that is almost 2.9% to 5.6%. Most of these Malaysians “migrated to Singapore and OECD countries such as Australia, UK and US.” (Wong, 2010). 1 (Putting the Malaysian diaspora into perspective, 2011) 1.1

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The purpose of this report is to analyse the “Brain Drain” in Malaysia, identify and evaluate some of the causes and effects of brain drain including the recommendations to reduce the “Brain Drain” in Malaysia. The outlines of the report

“The term brain drain itself states the international transfer of resources in the form of human capital. In other word, the migration of relatively highly educated individuals from a country. This term certainly explains the moving of professionals, experts and owners of technology and higher skills, all considered as the thoughtful brains and human capital of a country.” (Panahi, 2012, pg3003).2

The causes of brain drain are complicated and deeply rooted in other aspects of Malaysian’s society. One of the main causes of the brain drain is job prospects, economic and political issue. The effects of this brain drain can be clearly seen to affect the economic development of Malaysia and its aspiration to become a high income economy country as of the year 2020. (Wong, 2010).1

The purpose of this research study will be to examine the factors affecting the increasing rate of brain drain and its effects to Malaysia. This is to find a solution to this issue and reduce the rate of brain drain in Malaysia. To fulfil this purpose, an analytical research study will survey the Malaysian citizens on their opinion about this brain drain issue.


There are a few causes to the increasing rate of brain drain in Malaysia. Some of them include political-social injustice, greater job prospects, the falling educational standards and the poor social standards of the country. These causes would help us understand why Malaysian’s nowadays prefer to move abroad rather than living in their own country.

Political-social injustice can be said as a factor when Malaysia’s brain drain appears to be picking up the pace when the figure of Malaysian’s migrating abroad has doubled this past year. Majority of Malaysian’s that migrate feel that social injustice made them to move out of the country. The non-Malays abandon this country because ethnic Malays consider them as aliens in a foreign country despite being born and living here for a long time. However, the number of Malays who migrate is also increasing due to the fact of corrupt practices as well as the strict confines of Islam in the country. (Mariam Mokhtar, 2010).3

Not only that, in a research done by the World Bank, it is said that Malaysians are “willing to return if the government shifts from race- based to needs-based affirmative policies.” Furthermore, in the 4th issue of the Malaysia’s economic monitor,” 60% of the respondents found that social injustice as their main reason to migrate or return-migrate, stating unequal access to scholarships and higher education especially among the younger generation within the non-Bumiputera community”. (Izaham Musa, 2011).4

Another major factor of brain drain is the greater opportunity for career. These Malaysian who migrate, find that they are not being paid accordingly to their talents and are unable to improve themselves. By migrating, they find themselves improved employment, higher salaries and better working environment. Even graduates, who study abroad, prefer to work abroad straight after they graduate. (2012, pg8).5

Developed countries have been attempting to attract our Malaysians to fill in their gaps of human scarcity in their home countries. These Malaysians are convinced by promising high salary and better job opportunity which is not available here in Malaysia. Their idea of moving abroad is to have a satisfying social life, better perks and have an international exposure in their lives. (Junaimah Jauhar, Yusliza Mohd Yusoff , 2011, pg120).6

The falling educational standard of the country is also another factor. Malaysian parents are seeing that the Malaysian education system is not up to the standard that everyone is expecting. Majority have the intention to leave Malaysian in order to obtain better education for their children for their future career prospects. They think that with the falling education system, they are heading to the road of doom. (Kapil Sethi, 2012).7

“With the falling educational standards, the bright feel they are drowning in a sea of mediocrity”. Constant changing of syllabus of our children’s education is making the standard even lower. “The current syllabus has been reverted to Malay as the medium of instruction, rote learning is insisted as a marker of excellence and lowering standards to increase the pass rate is not helping Malaysia’s cause, today or in the future”. (Kapil Sethi, 2012).7

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Malaysian’s abroad state that poor social service and dangerous environment prompted them to migrate. This is another reason for the brain drain in Malaysia. These Malaysian’s who is abroad state that Malaysia is getting dangerous and they can’t put their confidence in the police. Not to mention the bad services they receive in government offices and hospitals. (2012, pg8).5


“Brain drain in Malaysia would affect the country’s aspiration to become a high-income nation as human capital is the bedrock of a high income economy. It needs a sustained and skilled intensive growth that will require talent to move forward. However, brain drain isn’t working well with Malaysia’s Vision of 2020. Malaysia needs talent but talent seems to be leaving.” (Paren, 2011).8

Not only that, by these migrations of human capital from Malaysia, it reduces the already low quantity of skilled manpower available and needed for Malaysia’s development. Malaysia is losing its innovative and dynamic people to developed country making Malaysia’s dream to achieve Vision of 2020 a bit blur in the long run. (Urvee333, 2012).9

Furthermore, brain drain also “risks jeopardizing its economic development if it doesn’t solve its brain drain problem.” This is due to the impact of shortage of highly skilled workforce. Not only would that, innovations that are meant to be created in Malaysia, find its name elsewhere in the world which would in turn bring down Malaysia’s economic development. (M.Bakri Musa, 2011).10

Another impact Brain drain has on economic development is that with more and “more entrepreneurs taking their investments abroad, Malaysia is missing an opportunity of wealth creation. This has also negative consequences on tax revenue and employment”. This also reduces the country’s competitiveness with other countries economically. (Urvee333, 2012).9


Based on a research done by the World Bank, it is found that Malaysia needs more policies to increase competitiveness in the labor market as they are needed to push up wages. The Government also needs to reduce the difference in the availability of the quality basic education among states & between rural and urban areas, restructure vocational training system and ensure the skills that are being produced match the market in order to increase competitiveness. (Standford, 2011).11

By increasing competitiveness, wages will increase and the job prospects will be brighter and it may solve the main reason why Malaysian’s are moving abroad to earn a living. Not only that, this competitiveness will also produce highly skilled workforce that is sorely needed by Malaysia in order to boost up its economy. This would also “create great opportunities for our local talent pool.” (Chua Sher Hann, 2011).12

Another recommendation to solving this brain drain is if Malaysia solves its unstable education system. Malaysia should consider to de-politise the education system for the benefit of the nation and country by offering good, simple and advancing education for all citizens. Because, low level of education standards will drift away Malaysian talents as education system is heavily politicized in Malaysia which will affect the younger generation future and the foundation to a country’s economic success lies in the quality of education. (2012, pg13).5

By having a stable education system, Malaysia not only will produce innovative and dynamic workforce but also patriotic citizens which is fostered at a very young age itself. This dynamic and innovative workforce is needed in order for Malaysia’s aspiration to become a high-income nation by the year 2020. If this is established, the Vision of 2020 can be achievable.

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