Universiti Sains Malaysia researchers want to hear about your experiences!

I received this email from a researcher at the School of Management at USM, Associate Professor Quah Chun Hoo, who along with Dr. Siti Rohaida Mohamed Zainal is conducting research into an interesting topic that is a natural follow-up to the questions posed in my survey – How effective is Malaysia’s Brain Gain Programme in luring back the Malaysian Diaspora? 

If you are are 25 and above, possess a diploma, and consider yourself either now or in the past part of the Malaysian diaspora, they would like to hear from you!

This is what they are looking for:

“Via conversations/interviews, we hope your answers can help us firm up our questionnaire as well as shed light on some of these questions:

a)    What motivated you to return to Malaysia after all their years abroad?  Was it more of the “push” or “pull” factors?

b)    Apart from the traditional push and pull factors, were there any other “personal” or “professional” reasons that motivated you to move back to Malaysia?  For example, need to care for elderly parents, take over family business, personal lifestyle, etc.

c)    Did you find the new incentives under the Returning Experts Programme (REP), like the 15% transitional income tax incentive and tax free incentive for 2 cars attractive?

d)    Was your international experience, knowledge and competencies gained during their years abroad “helpful/relevant” to what they are currently doing?

e)    What was the opportunity cost of your decision to move back to Malaysia?

f)    Was the length of your stay abroad a major factor in their decision to return?

g)    How has been your experience back in Malaysia to date?  Are you enjoying their stay or are you contemplating uprooting themselves once again?   If the latter, why?

h)    Did your spouses and children encounter any issues with their PR or schooling matters?

i)    For those who had taken up the REP but have since returned to their adopted homeland, would you consider the “diaspora option” more viable as compared to the “brain gain” option in helping Malaysia in its transformational programme?  If yes, why?  If no, why?

j)    Suggestions for improving the existing REP.

Please contact us at:

Dr. Siti Rohaida Mohamed Zainal (siti_rohaida@usm.my) or Associate Professor Quah Chun Hoo (quah@usm.my).”

This can be a great opportunity to not only express your opinion on matters of personal and broader societal importance, but to get them heard by the right people who can work on creating better policies to deal with returnees.

So what are you waiting for? Email the professors, be heard! And keep your comments and emails coming: I may not reply to all of them, but I do read all of them and  am very honored that you are willing to share your life experiences with me.

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Fellow Malaysian & PhD Candidate Needs Help For Thesis

It’s really great that current events in Malaysia and my research project have inspired more academic research into the serious brain drain situation in Malaysia. Another Malaysian researcher is doing similiar research now and looking for interviewees.

Koh Sin Yee, a PhD candidate in Human Geography at the London School of Economics and Political Science is looking for professional Malaysians in London, Singapore and returnees to Malaysia to interview for her thesis. If you are one, or know someone who fits the bill and is willing to be interviewed, contact her at kohsinyee[at]gmail.com.

You can read more about her thesis at movingmalaysians.wordpress.com.

I’d encourage any of you with friends or family who have been in this situation to schedule an interview with her — your stories are important in capturing the full range of human motivations and circumstances regarding Malaysian migration.

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Interesting website

Wherever you are, at home, abroad, Malaysians love to talk. We share similar backgrounds, concerns, and have had many similar experiences, so why not use get together to help one another?

This is an interesting initiative (with some lofty nation-building goals) that sounds like it could really take off.

P.S. I am not affiliated with korang.com in any way.

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World Bank Report on Brain Drain

The World Bank released their Malaysian Economic Monitor on brain drain (link is to Chapter 3 on brain drain, the rest of it is on the overall current economic outlook for Malaysia).

In the report, there are a lot of statistics for those interested in knowing the current state of our economy. This website is referenced on page 121.

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TLDR (Too Long, Didn’t Read)

For the time-pressed, busy ones amongst you readers, I’ve made a special page that sums up my research in five minutes or less:

TLDR-fix (also known as Summary)

I’d suggest if you have a little more time, to read the comments (hopes and reasons) page and hear what other Malaysians have said.

Thank you for your time! 🙂

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What is this blog about?

In summer of 2010, I conducted a research project to find out what Malaysians think of brain drain. Particularly, I wanted to know how Malaysians who have or are studying and working outside the country make their decision on whether to return to the homeland or to stay abroad. While this decision is highly personal and varies depending on the individual, I hoped to find some overarching trends that would shed some light into this national and global phenomenon. My goal for this research was to identify, categorize and explain the most important factors for Malaysians in this complex decision-making process.

How did you do that?

To gather data I could analyze statistically, I created an online survey targeted at overseas Malaysians and publicized it via personal contacts and an events page on Facebook.

The survey asked for demographic information such as the respondent’s age, gender, ethnicity and country studied abroad. Respondents were asked to rate on a scale of one to five, how strongly they desired to return to Malaysia (if they were abroad) or leave Malaysia (if they were residing in Malaysia). Respondents were given the option to elaborate on their reasons why.

Then, there were scalar questions about the respondent’s opinions of various aspects of Malaysia; such as its political situation, its economic situation, safety, education and human rights. For the sake of statistical analysis and comparison, these abstract factors were rated on a scale of one to ten, with one being not important at all and ten being most important.

The survey also asked respondents to rate from a scale of one to five how important each of the following factors were to their decision whether to return or not: job prospects, religion, family ties and moral duty.

The survey also asked respondents if they believed overseas Malaysians should come home and if those returnees could make a difference. Finally, respondents were invited to share their aspirations were for Malaysia.

Why is this important?

It is a global issue. International movement of human capital has been a catalyst for growth and innovation since the beginning of man, and is still an important phenomenon today. The increasing interconnectedness of our world and ease of travel has serious consequences for every nation, one of which is that no country can take its human capital for granted. Brain drain, the mass emigration of people with skills and knowledge to other countries, is a serious issue for many developing countries in Asia, eastern Europe and Africa. Brain drain hampers a country’s development and in the long run, increases all forms of inequality between developed and developing nations.

It is a national issue. According to the 2005 World Bank report, Malaysia has almost 1.5 million nationals living overseas (for a country of 28 million). In one year (2008-2009), 305,000 people left for greener pastures. In 2000, over 100,000 Malaysians with tertiary education had emigrated to OECD countries. That’s over 100,000 educated Malaysians who could have contributed their intellectual talents and financial resources to improve this country, lost to other countries.

But it’s not just economic, social and political progress within the country that we’ve lost. Malaysians abroad are our ambassadors. Their attitudes toward Malaysia shape how others view our country, how willing foreigners are to invest, travel or collaborate with Malaysia and Malaysian interests. If Malaysians abroad feel disconnected to their home country, it is a loss to Malaysia in tangible and intangible ways.

It is a personal issue. This subject is personally relevant as I am a second-year university student pursuing my B.A. in Economics and Politics at Scripps College, USA. My views about Malaysia, like most others who have gone overseas, are complex and sometimes contradictory. A strong desire to return and contribute to the country of my birth conflicts with the practical reality that it is often more profitable and comfortable to live and work in a developed nation.

What did I find?

Read on to find out!

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