“The reality is, brain drain is a boon to the corrupt establishment”

The reason is simple. The establishment resents “critical thinkers” as the group can pose a threat to the status quo.

(Focus Malaysia) – THE brain drain problem is not a problem unique to Malaysia. Even economically advanced countries struggle with this.

The idea is quite simple. People leave for places where they find their skills are more appreciated in terms of financial rewards and better upward social mobility.

And often, the issue is coupled with a feeling that their excellence is not appreciated in their homeland and are usually due to discriminatory policies in the place.

Based on a study conducted by EMIR Research, it is estimated that there are slightly above two million of the Malaysian diasporas which are working in other countries.

Bear in mind that the number is a mere estimate, given that the authorities do not really provide granular data to study how severe the brain drain problem is in Malaysia.

In this piece, I would like to touch two problems related to Malaysia’s brain drain problem substandard wages and of course, Government policy.

In terms of wages, there is not denying that our remuneration scale does not commensurate with the skills brought forth by our skilled workforce.

To prove this point, I need not cite any data. Just to tell you of my own life experience, my starting salary after graduating was RM1,500, back in 2004.

And the Government has just set the minimum wage threshold at RM1,500 after much resistance from certain quarters. Can anyone tell me how much the cost of living has escalated since then?

Adding salt to injury to those who spent years to get a tertiary education, the salary for a fresh graduate in the early 1990s was between RM1,500 and RM1,800.

So, for the last 30 years, the salary range for fresh graduates was “set” at between RM1,500 and RM1,800 despite cost of living rising exponentially in lieu of our economic growth.

And why are wages not rising in tandem with the cost of living? Well, it boils down to the neo-liberal economic policies set by former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad back in the 1980s.

Those who lived during the 1980s and 1990s remember that Malaysia was often marketed to foreign investors as a skilled yet low-wage country. Despite the country now in the 21st century with several prime ministers succeeding Mahathir, Malaysia did not really walk away from the “cheap labour” policies of the past.

Just look at our addiction to cheap migrant labour to drive our economic growth. Despite having an acute labour shortage in the manufacturing and commodity sectors, no one is talking about increasing wages to attract workers. Instead, we are still looking at how to get migrant workers back!

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