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Survey says: Malaysians are leaving Malaysia because of ‘Low Wages’ and 'Racial Inequality Policies’

*disclaimer, this article merely seeks to disseminate the truthful results of a survey conducted by the Tapir Journal and is done with the utmost respect to all participants and mentioned parties. These views do not represent the opinions of The Tapir Journal. We will be happy to amend this article to cooperate with relevant authorities. All answer options used in the survey were chosen from academic studies cited in this article based on popularity alone.

3 weeks ago The Tapir Journal published its most viewed article to date, an article detailing why 2 in 10 Malaysians with university degrees currently leave Malaysia to work in other countries. In the article, which has received over 20,000 impressions across social media platforms as of 3rd November 2022, we compiled research from The World Bank, Stanford University and EMIR think tank on how Malaysia has one of the worst brain drains in the world and has lost over 2 million Malaysians to greener pastures abroad.

This article will cover the most pertinent piece to come from the aforementioned article - the survey. The Tapir Journal sent out a survey asking students the million ringgit question:

“Why are you leaving and what could make you stay?”

The Responses were troubling

This survey was gracefully disseminated by the Malaysian societies of King’s College London, London School of Economics, University College London and the United Kingdom and Eire (Ireland) Council for Malaysian Students to whom we thank dearly. As a result of their efforts, the survey managed to receive almost 80 responses from Malaysians studying in universities in Malaysia, Korea, Australia, Canada, Finland, the UK and the US. Over 90% of respondents were from universities located in the UK.

The range of responses spanned from Aalto University Finland, to Korea University in Seoul, to Columbia University in New York City, and even to Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Massachusetts, USA.

The responses put any doubt of the brain drain to rest, with 82.1% of respondents stating they would not immediately return to Malaysia after graduating from university.

Why doesn’t anyone want to come back?

When asked what was the most significant reason they wouldn’t return to Malaysia, an overwhelmingly large majority of 84.6% of respondents answered ‘economy/low wages’ and ‘racial inequality’ policies. The economy/low wages was the dominant reason leading with 66.7% of all responses with racial inequality policies taking up second place with 17.9% of all responses. The next largest reason was ‘Cultural Difference-Language, religious environment’ with 6.4% of all responses.

However, racial inequality policies were most consistently cited as one of the reasons by all applicants. When asked what was the second and third most significant reason for leaving Malaysia, respondents ranked ‘Racial Inequality Policies’ higher than the ‘Economy/Low Wages’.

A startling result was that in asking respondents for the second and third most significant reason for leaving, the ‘Political State’ of Malaysia was ranked higher than both ‘Racial Inequality Policies’ and the ‘Economy/Low Wages’. Whilst the term ‘Political State’ is not specific to any particular phenomenon, it shows that Malaysians abroad are not impressed with the current political landscape of Malaysia and the current government.

The results also suggest that ‘Racial Inequality Policies’ in Malaysia are extremely relevant in the decision-making of Malaysians, reflecting the research cited in our original article that over 90% of citizens that change citizenship are minorities (ethnically Chinese and Indian).

Standing head and shoulders over all other reasons is Malaysia’s low wages and its economy. It should be clear to all politicians in the next general election, that the plug to the brain drain is wage increments that reflect the growth of the economy.

Are they ever coming back?

While 84.6% of respondents stated they wouldn’t come back immediately after graduating, when asked if they would return after gaining work experience elsewhere, 71.8% of Malaysians answered yes, they would return.

Its thus clear that there does still exist some sort of connection with Malaysia that foreign graduates naturally still feel for the motherland. It then begs the question, why even feel the need to be elsewhere if they plan to return to the same situation they attributed reasons for leaving?

When asked this exactly (in a checkbox style question with multiple selectable answers), 53 of 78 respondents cited ‘Low Wages’, and 32 of the 78 respondents cited ‘Prestige’ as a reason for first exploring foreign work markets. Indicating that even with the MNCs residing in Kuala Lumpur, a job in Malaysia is not seen by graduates as carrying enough weight or monetary incentive as other countries in the world.

This seems linked with an answer that 11 of the 78 respondents cited which is ‘High Tuition Fees’, it's evident that Malaysians that study abroad may feel that to justify the costs of their degrees, a job that gives them the prestige to open more doors to escape the low wages of Malaysia is necessary.

How much money do they need to come back?

Its often been theorised that Malaysia does not need to match the value of wages of its competitors such as Singapore dollar for dollar to claw back the draining graduates, it only needs to give a high enough salary to place graduates in a class of comfortable living for Malaysian standards.

In asking the question ‘at what salary would you need to consider returning? (annually)’, over 93% of respondents answered ‘>RM80,000/$20,000’. This is troubling as the average fresh graduate salary for Malaysia is RM2500 a month (across industries) according to surveys. This amounts to RM30,000 annually, less than 40% of what respondents said would be enough to entice them to come back.

The relative majority of respondents (30.8%) answered that they needed ‘>RM120,000/$30,000’ to return to the country. With the simple majority of respondents stating they’d be okay with the ‘>RM120,000/$30,000’ range or below.

Closing Comments

We thank every Malaysian that answered our survey and felt that some responses were extremely frank in their decision making for leaving the country. Below are some responses to the optional question: ‘What change would lead you to come back to Malaysia without hesitation?’

Racial equality. I feel alienated and unrepresented compared to the bumiputera at home. So why should I return home if my country doesn't care about my race. At least in the UK, I'm a minority and I am comfortable being the minority because regardless, I can still do great things without race being considered seeing that the UK is so diverse in its beliefs.

If Malaysia had wages competitive or slightly lower (10% lower) than Singapore’s but without the financial/political/educational infrastructure, I wouldn’t expect it to come close. I am hoping that with financial/political/educational sophistication would then automatically relieve the issues that have plagued our country for the longest time :))

Strong economic growth, complete abolishment of any racial inequality policies, a governing coalition formed of parties that do not discriminate against race, 1 SGD < 3 MYR, 1 USD < 4 MYR, 1 USD < 4.5 GBP, whichever comes first.

It's troubling that the government has not taken the initiative to pursue surveys such as these, at least not to the effect that myself and my peers have ever seen. We hope that this article helps anyone reading it understand the causes of brain drain more clearly. The answers to reducing the drain have been correctly theorised for decades, increase wages and greater inclusiveness of minorities.

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1 commento

Emir Izat
Emir Izat
09 dic 2022

Many empirical flaws with the article – small sample size, self-selection bias, misunderstanding of causal frameworks, and survey design which makes me think that the writers of the article is engaging in selective use of evidence to present a problematic view on labor outcomes of elite university graduates. Caution is advised for anyone reading this article.

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