Cass Shan reminds us again of the factors that are driving young Malaysians out of the country and draining her of talents and skills.

It’s no secret that our graduates who study overseas don’t come back.

Many skilled workers have emigrated citing social injustice (60%) and compensation (54%) as reasons for leaving this beautiful country.

Can you blame them though?

We here in Malaysia are stuck with outdated meritocracy benefits and no minimum wage, not to mention low starting pay for fresh graduates.

About 57% head off to Singapore while the rest move to the USA, UK, Australia and other countries. It has to be mentioned that non-Bumiputras make up the majority of those who have emigrated.

In place of the talents we’re losing, unskilled workers who have primary school education or less are being taken in.

The other backbone of our country? | Source:

It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to realize that we are headed towards becoming a nation of low skills.

What can we do about this devastating scenario? For one, we must acknowledge the reasons why people are leaving.

There is a lack of opportunities for locals unless they go abroad. This alone is the main factor. To address this issue, we must effect a change in our social fabric. We must recognize our talents for what they can do and not what skin colour they are born with. People who work hard for their talents and skills must be recognized for the talents and skills in themselves – not whether they carry Bumiputra status on their MyKad or otherwise.

Government bodies are most prone to this trap. More often than not, they hire Bumiputras – often neglecting more qualified non-Bumis. This is a fact that I’ve witnessed myself: A friend of mine was the only one with experience among a group of fresh graduates applying for a job at a government body and she was not selected. It also goes to show how far backwards we are as she was castigated for wearing a cross to work.

The entire episode unfortunately displays the low mentality of government bodies when it comes to selecting staff. ‘Skills’ do not seem to actually come into their consideration.

I also personally know of a highly talented Malaysian who was denied the top post of a government agency simply because of his skin colour. He earns a top-tier salary and pulls his weight but was denied the post simply because a certain quota had to be fulfilled.

How do we expect smart graduates who have left to return, when we flatly deny them their right to fair employment?

Opportunity must present itself based on merit and not race. For too long the race card has been played on to us. The time to dismantle race-based policies is long overdue.

And then there is the issue of salaries.

Take a quick glance at Jobstreet’s salary report and you’ll see how low the average salary is. A fresh graduate is only able to earn about RM2,000 p/m while a manager in a small company will only make RM4,000 p/m on average (though this increases with the size of the company).

For some, this is fine-dining | Source:

With living costs having risen exponentially in recent years, how are we expected to eke out a decent living with these figures? Those who want to pursue their Masters must either take up the PTPTN loan or earn a scholarship (or work in Singapore for a while – which is what one of my friends did).

Larger companies fork out RM2,000-3,000 for a simple customer service position and RM6,000 for Assistant Manager roles. Since most middle-class Malaysians earn within this average, it’s easy to see how one would be hard-pressed to afford a house, especially since property prices continue to skyrocket.

For example, a condominium today costs roughly about RM450,000 – translating to a RM45,000 downpayment. With an average salary of RM4,000, one may perhaps save RM500 p/m (after deducting expenses) and take up to 90 months to save up for a condominium. That’s 7.5 years! How would young married couples cope with such costs?

Corporations and businesses must increase the wage in tandem with the cost of living. This ensures quality staff and better productivity. It’s the norm that employees hate their jobs and simply do them as a means to an end. Where are the days where employees were passionate about their work? How does a company rise without its people?

It should be in the company’s vision to ensure that staff are paid well enough to house and feed themselves. This is not even scratching the surface of the problem as there are many other Malaysians who earn less than RM3,000 or even RM1,500 for the matter. If we were to broach that part of the subject – we’d be able to understand why Malaysians would opt to leave the country at the first opportunity.

In summary, the diaspora exists and will most likely grow due to the factors that have been discussed. To reverse the outflow of talent, we desperately need to look at the key issues involved.  Then drive home changes that will bring our best and brightest home to serve and develop this nation.

(Featured image accompanying article on main page courtesy of Ly Ning, source:

Cass likes coffee. She equates politics to drinking coffee. Too much will keep you awake. You need to sweeten it yourself or else it will taste bitter. But it's also addictive if you drink it frequently.

2 replies on “How to Get Rid of Malaysian Talent”

  1. Fair comments, but a little skewed on big pictures on the low starting salary of graduates.

    I used to be an employer in M'sia. Now I do that in Shanghai & Jakarta. So I speak from experiences.

    For any business outfits, staff learning curve MUST be as short as possible. This is especially so for SMEs, where majority of the graduate entry level jobs r been enticed. Big corporations have the luxury of pick & choose, due to their branding, & fresh graduate mentality. Short staff learning curve usually means quality learners, & to some extend better training modules.

    Now, a well-known fact, the quality of the local graduates has been slithering downwards over the years. Skill training can be provided if the graduates can pick up quickly. BUT the fact of the matter is, many of the local graduates r just not been schooled in the 1st in the right knowledge. 2nd, coupled that with the inability to communicate well in proper English, one ends up with a situation of chicken -&-duckling talks. After awhile, either party would give up to teach/learn whatever is supposed to be taught/learnt.

    So HOW to pay them well when the quality of the graduates is of the current standard?

    Worst, there is currently a common mentality among the graduates, who think that their paper qualification automatically qualify them for a higher pay-check. An induced failure in raising expectation without a mirror, I would call that.

    Now, then why so many migrate? Most the the emigrants r experienced & knowledgeable workers This is THE lost that the current govt acknowledged & yet unable to do anything serious, due to the inbreed foundation of ketuanan among the govt bureaucrats. On top of that, these emigrants r more concerned with the quality of education that their children is going to get.

    Without these skilled people to train the fresh crop of graduate workers, one ends up with hp6 graduate workers trained by equally hp6 trainers. So the circus repeats Ad infinitum. Moreover, without these skilled entrepreneurs to take risks with their knowledge to start new & improved industries, there would never be rising income level across the board. A chicken & egg dilemma!

    Final word – GOOD quality education to the masses would stop brain drain & inevitably raise the starting income level of the graduates. Start with quality students intake as the lowest denominator for the change.

    1. I am responding to 1 of the many point you raised, the point about deteriorating quality of fresh graduate, or the perception of such deterioration. I have seen many bright fresh graduate with good command of English being paid low salary as well as those that doesn't speak good English, I worked for a large US based MNC and later a UK based MNC, I have seen large quantities of Australia, UK, New Zealand's universities graduates, being paid RM 2200 a month after they've spent a fortune on tuition and 3 years overseas. Their salary is often stagnant for many years and can hardly reach 3000 after 3 years. I am not sure the problem rested on the quality of our fresh graduates. On many levels I have seen an improvement of quality of our young ones, they are tech savvy and they dares to stand for their rights (Reformasi, BERSIH, Anti-LYNAS…), many are well traveled thanks to AirAsia cheap tickets and resulted in much wider world view.

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