Malaysia will begin a recruitment drive next month in a bid to attract more skilled expatriates to work in the country.
By Charles Fernandez
PETALING JAYA: Among the US economic competitors, China is proving the most aggressive and ambitious in seeking to reverse a brain drain and lure back their scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs, according to a report.
In 2010, China started a programme focused on “talent development” to draw in Chinese who studied or worked abroad.
According to a report, the country is offering bonuses equivalent to about US$158,000 (RM488,220) to experienced university professors and researchers, particularly in the sciences and technology, who return to teach.
Returning scholars and business people are offered housing subsidies and tax exemptions to locate new enterprise in government-designated districts and one programme is designed to attract Chinese expatriates who hold overseas patents in specialised science fields.
China is also recruiting Chinese managers in high-level positions in non-Chinese companies.
A review of the results of the Chinese programme showed that 55% of Chinese who returned to China under this programme came from the US.
Like China, Malaysia is also undertaking a similar programme to attract highly-skilled Malaysians to return home, as well as talented expatriates to start businesses here.
Malaysia will begin a recruitment drive next month in a bid to attract more skilled expatriates to work in the country. Ten-year visas are reported to be on offer to expats in the business services, oil and gas, finance and education industries.
But whether these incentives are enough to persuade foreign talent to relocate to Malaysia remains a question.
Talent Corp Malaysia (TalentCorp) CEO Johan Mahmood had said that an expatriate services division which will be established next March under the Immigration Department will help facilitate the arrival of skilled foreign workers and their families.
He said the big question is whether Malaysia can offer a persuasive incentive for expatriates who not only are a potential source of skilled workforce but also as a group that could spark innovation among the Malaysian workforce.
Red carpet for expats
TalentCorp may need to look to other countries that have been able to nurture a strong expatriate presence and learn how they are kept happy in their adopted country.
Johan had said TalentCorp realises that there is a perception among locals at home in abroad that there is a lack of rich career opportunities in Malaysia.
In places like the United Arab Emirates, expat bonuses and benefits are successful in luring the right talent to the gulf nation.
France is another example. The country shows no sign of losing its popularity as a destination for British expats, not least because you can still get live broadcast of British football in France – a perk that is disappearing elsewhere in Southern Europe.
A survey by HiFx showed that nearly 25% of British surveyed about their plans for buying property abroad expressed an interest in moving to France, while Spain also retained its second place position in the annual survey.
Canada and other countries are also vigorously recruiting highly skilled foreigners trained in the US who are frustrated with the cumbersome immigration system there.
Singapore gives a one-year visa as well as matching funds to foreign entrepreneurs who invest US$50,000 with the possibility of renewal while Chile offers work visas and subsidies up to US$40,000 to technology entrepreneurs who go there to start businesses.
In its turn, Malaysia appears to have also provided the red carpet for expats by creating a special unit within the Immigration Department to handle their needs and issues.
TalentCorp also facilitates the return of Malaysian professionals from abroad through the Returning Expert Programme (REP), an initiative which was previously managed by the Human Resources Ministry up to 2010.
And since 2011 more than 1,600 REP applications have been approved, which is more than the 1,130 that the country had attracted in the decade before.
Malaysia will be making a concerted effort to attract expats in the coming year with the launch of the Expatriate Services Division. The new government department is intended to help prospective expats deal with visas and administrative issues and make the destination more attractive to skilled professionals.
The Malaysian government is clearly hopeful that these new measures will lead the country to emulate the expat success story of neighbouring Singapore.