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Is Malaysia attracting or repelling talent?

Is Malaysia attracting or repelling talent?

Geoffrey Williams -September 23, 2022 7:30 AM

People with talent leave Malaysia because they have better options overseas. People with talent come to Malaysia because there are good opportunities here. This is how the market for skills and talent works.

Skills can and should come from anywhere. Talent does not have a nationality and does not depend on the colour of your passport.

A better skilled, talented and diverse workforce is a key factor in raising value-added economic activity, moving from commodity-based, low-paid jobs to higher value jobs in technology, digital sectors or professional and financial services. This adds to economic growth, prosperity, innovation and long-term economic development.

To take advantage of the market for talent, Malaysia must be more open to anyone who can contribute to the deepening of its talent pool, but recently, policy and attitudes have turned the other way. During the pandemic, the government restricted foreign employees unless there were no available Malaysians. This hit skilled workers.

Before that, there were more skilled workers coming from overseas than skilled Malaysians returning. At the end of 2020, Talent Corp had approved 8,751 foreign applicants for their Talent Pass scheme since 2011. In the same period, 5,774 Malaysians had returned on the Talent Corp Returning Expert Programme.

Whereas, the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the UAE and the US attract and retain highly-skilled people from everywhere in the world, Malaysia is too restrictive and has yet to acknowledge that it is not as attractive as it thinks compared to competing countries.

People have better choices elsewhere, through Digital Nomad passes in Thailand for example. Malaysia is too restrictive on permanent residency compared to Singapore and many people feel aggrieved by this after working here for many years.

The weaknesses in the current system are simply the regulations covering minimum savings and salaries, expenses for family costs and administration fees. Old-style work permits restricted to a single employer remove the right to move between different companies. This is a big problem.

Employment law protection for foreign skilled workers is basically non-existent. The courts are too slow, secondment contracts are not recognised in Malaysia, and so there is no effective remedy when you are in dispute with an employer.

The default for an employer is to terminate your work permit, with or without your knowledge, so you lose residency status and cannot pursue a case. Skilled workers are treated just as badly as other foreign workers in this respect.

A simple, low-cost, open policy allowing transfer between jobs, long-term visas, good tax schemes and better legal protection is enough. Good terms for families, easier home buying and less preconditions in terms of savings and salary will all help. Allowing people to stay longer and to transfer to permanent residence should also be allowed.

Actually, the policy framework is not the only issue. The type and seniority of positions, the type of companies, whether they are multinationals or not as well as the level of work, whether they are R&D centres or just sales offices for example are all factors.

However, the main issue is the environment of the country, the look and feel. Unfortunately, Malaysia has had many issues recently that make it less welcoming than other places. Far too often we see “only Malaysians can apply” not just for jobs but for grants, projects, government schemes and many other areas.

There has been a growing anti-foreigner sentiment and, of course, governance, corruption and the rule of law are a concern for everyone, including Malaysians.

To compete in the global market for talent, Malaysia needs to get real, raise its game and play nice.

Source: https://www.freemalaysiatoday.com/category/opinion/2022/09/23/is-malaysia-attracting-or-repelling-talent/?fbclid=IwAR1m_LZ653qLKRThpKxi6EQ_kfam_zIwkcHlmBct1HyMyx8b0L_UBYpWl1U

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