Exporting grey matter: What is the brain drain costing us?


Can there really be any benefits to the persistent brain drain out of Malaysia? The numbers seem to say so. But knowledge and skills are intangible commodities that are the basis of innovation – commodities that we are rapidly losing as more and more high-skilled Malaysians emigrate.

As of 2013, 308,833 high-skilled Malaysians are working abroad1.

The World Bank defines the brain drain population as those who are 25 years old and above, hold a tertiary-level degree and do not currently reside in their country of birth. The fact that Malaysia is losing these people when it already has a narrow skills base at home aggravates the problem of its Middle Income Trap. Our estimation places the high-skilled emigration rate at 9.66% of the total skilled workforce2 .

Brain drain is found in both developing and developed countries, although it is the former that tends to get hit the hardest.

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