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Statement on WEF: KL Policies Behind Brain Drain, Singapore Business Times, 11 October 2013

Johan Mahmood Merican

Chief Executive Officer of Talent Corporation Malaysia Berhad (TalentCorp)

We refer to the article “WEF: KL policies behind brain drain” published in the Singapore Business Times on 11 October 2013.

Malaysia was ranked 22 out of 122 countries in the Human Capital Index 2013 Report released by the World Economic Forum earlier this month. We came in fifth in the Asia-Pacific region, pipping South Korea and China, and emerged top among upper-middle income countries beating Thailand, Brazil and Turkey in the Report, which measures a country’s ability to develop and nurture healthy, educated and able workers.

Notably, the Report highlighted that Malaysia’s ability to attract and retain talent is perceived to be competitive. Further, employers in Malaysia find it easy to hire skilled employees compared to its peers.

The Report did not make any direct comparison between Malaysia and Singapore, nor did it comment that Malaysia’s policies and migrant labour have “kept Malaysia from achieving a skilled workforce” as stated in your article.

We do note that there are still more work to be done to close the gender gap of economic participation, which has been singled out in the Report as Malaysia’s lowest score. According to the Report, “Malaysia, the highest of the region’s upper–middle income countries, ranks very low for the economic participation gender gap indicator. Malaysia performs well on most of the qualitative talent and training indicators in the Workforce and Employment pillar.”

Towards this end, Malaysia has announced policies to increase women participation in the labour market to 55% by 2015 from 49.5% presently. Additionally, the Government has also announced a target of 30% women in boards of listed companies by 2016.

On our part, TalentCorp has launched flexWorkLife.my which aims to build a network of employers and talents to optimise work-life integration, while maximising work efficiency and enhancing employee engagement.

Employers can find on flexWorkLife.my a combination of best practices, case studies and success stories on work-life integration. In addition, employers can post job opportunities with flexible work arrangements and apply online for tax incentive on training expenses incurred to retrain women who have returned to work after a career break.

The measures to promote women’s participation in the workforce and representation in decision-making positions reflect the Government’s belief that diverse and inclusive economic participation is not only the right thing to do but also good for business.

Especially as we transform to a knowledge intensive and innovation led economy, diversity of ideas enhances decisions and performance. Malaysia’s inherent diversity is a source of strength to be optimised on, whether it is gender, age or ethnicity.

Towards this, the Government’s recent announcement on Bumiputera economic empowerment is anchored on promoting inclusive economic development. It is certainly not a policy to ‘rob Peter to pay Paul’ but to aspire for the incremental economic growth to be distributed more equitably.

The news report makes an assertion that the Bumiputera policy is driving brain drain, eventhough this is not specifically mentioned in the WEF Report. Whilst surveys suggest it is a contributing factor, top pull factors for migration also include the attraction of higher salaries and career prospects.

At the same time, the diversity reflected in leadership in corporate Malaysia, across listed companies, multinationals and leading private sector companies, reinforces the point that the opportunities at home to succeed are available for all Malaysians.

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