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Forum Session 2

Forum Session 2

Malaysian Diaspora: Brain Drain or Brain Gain

Diaspora is defined as a group of people who spread from their country of origin to other countries for various reasons such as looking for a better life, war, or political oppression in the country of origin. In the early 1960s, there was an increase in the rate of east-west migration, especially to Europe, the United States of America, and Australia; this trend has remained stable until now. While in the early 1990s, there was also a trend of migration to Asian countries such as Singapore, Japan, and South Korea.

Diaspora is always negatively associated with the term brain drain, which is the loss of national experts due to migration to other countries. However, if viewed from a different angle, the diaspora can contribute to the country’s economic development if it is used as brain gain. To make the diaspora a brain gain, the country of origin needs to have comprehensive data and initiatives that can attract them back to the country of origin after gaining expertise and wealth from the destination country.

The United Nations Department of Economics and Social Affair (UNDESA) report in 2020 shows that the number of Malaysian diaspora is 1.86 million. The main destination countries for the Malaysian diaspora are Singapore, Bangladesh, Australia, the United Kingdom, the United States of America, and Brunei Darussalam. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) 2015/2016 reports showed that the majority of Malaysians working abroad are in the skilled category.

At this moment, Malaysia does not have official and complete data related to the number and whereabouts of the Malaysian diaspora. Due to this, Malaysia faces difficulties in helping its citizens who are abroad during the closure of the country’s border due to the COVID-19 pandemic, especially Malaysians who work in Singapore.

The government needs to manage Malaysian diaspora data more systematically under the 12th Malaysia Plan via Strategy A1: Facilitate Labour Force Participation – the creation of a Diaspora Database in 2021-2025. The fundamental issues at this moment for this strategy are to identify who is the diaspora, where they are, and how Malaysia can make the most of the talent among the Malaysian diaspora to become a brain gain instead of a brain drain.

Forum panelists from different backgrounds will discuss diaspora issues from an economic and social point of view and share experiences and opinions related to the Malaysian diaspora.



Prof. Madya Dr. Rabeatul Husna Abdull Rahman
Assistant Dean
Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities
School Of Human Resource Development & Psychology
Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM)


1.   Dato’ Nathan K. Suppiah
      Vice President
      Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers (FMM)

2.  Mr. Abd Razak Bin Ithnain
     Senior Operations Manager
     Human Capital Strategic Unit
     Johor State Government

3.  Mr. Luqman Bin Ahmad
     Human Capital Development Division
     Economic Planning Unit
     Presentation slide: 

4.  Mr. Mohamad Nazrul Aziz
     Vice President
     Graduate, Diaspora, and Industry Partnership
     Presentation slide: 


Download Forum Session 2 poster here