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Brain drain: The story behind the dwindling Chinese in Malaysia

Chinese have been told to go back to China by extremists and yes, Chinese are leaving not only by the dozens, but in tens of thousands, not to China but to Singapore, Australia, England, USA, Canada and most of the developed countries in the world seeking greener pastures and a place they can work and live without prejudice. This naturally caused a decline in the population of the Chinese in Malaysia and worst for the nation, a brain drain.

Minister in the Prime Minister department, Nor MohamedYakcop had announced recently that the population of Chinese compared to 11 years ago had dropped by 2%. He had said it did not mean that there were fewer births and it was ‘purely arithmetic’. He went on to add that in the last population census conducted in 2000, the Chinese made up of 26% of the country’s then 23.27 million population.

People leave only when there is no option

In Sarawak the 2000 population census showed that there were 25.9% Chinese, Dayak 52.5%, Malay 22.3%, Indian 0.3% and Others 0.4%.  Chinese landed on Malaysian soil way back in the early 1900s where the early Chinese settlers toiled the land with other races in the country, contributing to the development of this nation.

The majority of the Chinese today were born in Malaysia and have no inkling of what life in China is like. To them, China and its cities are tourist destinations or a faraway strange place where some relatives still live. Other than that, Malaysian Chinese look at Malaysia as their country, their homeland. This country is as much theirs as any Malaysian's. So, why are they losing faith in their own land, why are they feeling so isolated?

When there is no option left in a country due to unfair job opportunities, rampant racism, a lack of professionalism in almost every level of society and industry, unfairness in education, lack of freedom to practise religion, and an unlistening and corrupt government, the Chinese will usually take the hard way out and seek greener pastures elsewhere. Starting afresh in a foreign land is not easy. Not when you have only hard-earned thousands to get started on and not corrupt millions to cushion you.

The pull factor from the host countries are always higher income opportunity, better education system, political stability, job opportunity due to merits rather than skin colour, opportunity to grow and freedom to practise one's own religious beliefs.

Those who leave are mostly the cream of the country and from among professional groups such as engineers, doctors, nurses, IT experts, pharmacists or consultants.

Policing religion and culture

Yii, married to an Australian 20 years ago returned in March to help her married brother, Martin moved to Australia. “It is more to give a life for my two nieces. My brother is in his 50s and is sacrificing his bank manager's job for the sake of his children’s future. He has an easy life here but the future is uncertain at the rate things are going,” she said.

For the past few months, Martin has been pounding the streets in Perth looking for a job without success. Fortunately, his wife managed to secure a job. But for Yii, she said Martin is most happy knowing that his children are in a better situation than in Malaysia. The family comes from a staunch Catholic Church and to them, when the government started meddling and finding fault with the Church, that was the last straw for them to migrate.

Redmond, 55, is the last of a large family who had decided to stay put in Sarawak. A bachelor, Redmond did not wish to move anywhere. His nine siblings have long since moved to Australia, Singapore, United States and Canada.

“All of them are professionals, doctors, teachers and one, a Vet. They started moving away since the 70s. The last one to move last year was a sister who joined a brother in Australia for the sake of her children’s education. Me, I am fine here. Nothing to be worried about on the low grade education, high cost of living or this problematic government. It’s only those with children who fear for their future. If things get too unpleasant, I can just pack my bag and join any one of my siblings,” he said.

Dissatisfaction not arithmetic

Not surprised by the mass migration of Chinese, Redmond said in his own neighbourhood consisting of 16 families, 14 of them have children overseas, the majority in Singapore. "One of my neighbours whose children were not educated ended up in Singapore as cooks. They had even bought a house there, through sheer hard work, frugal living and saving every spare cent," he told Malaysia Chronicle.

It looks line Nor Mohamaed Yakcop was wrong. The dwindling Chinese in Malaysia is not ‘purely arithmetic’ as he claimed. It is due to dissatisfaction with government policies that have taken root after 50 years, with no light at the end of the tunnel.

Malaysia will end up the big loser if such migration is not checked. Those who are fond of calling the Chinese, ‘pendatang’ or saying that, ‘if you have so many complaints, go back from where you come from’, will only feel it in the future when this land becomes little more than a destination for uneducated and unskilled foreign labour, whose contribution to the nation and its economy was their willingness to vote for the BN in exchange for citizenships.

With illegal immigrants given citizenships set to invade, while the cream of the country leaves, what sort of future would this nation face? Those who are able to get out will do it by all means. And those who are not able to, will suffer the consequences of a not-so-bright nation where the poor get poorer and the rich, richer.

The dummies and the smarties

Migration has always been a part of our history, especially in a country like Malaysia, where most of our forefathers were migrants looking for a promised land. They worked their fingers to the bone making their fortunes far away from their places of birth, often with little help and lots of hardship.

There is also the rural-urban migration, where the main pull factor is the seeking of better education and better job opportunities compared to those available in the rural sectors.  But the worse kind of migration is what is happening in developed countries today - the migration of fully qualified, hard working professionals to other countries, not because they cannot find jobs, but because they are unhappy with the political system practised by the state.

A brain drain is one of the worst things that can happen to a country; that is the reason why states like Singapore are doing their best to retain not only their own people, but foreigners who study in their local institutions of higher learning. These new graduates are dangled not only with scholarships and a stable career after graduation, but also offered the security of a citizenship.

And it was Malaysia who gave these bright sparks 11 years of free education; Singapore merely complemented it with a few years of university and then got to keep them. Now, who are the biggest losers? Who are the real dummies?

- Malaysia Chronicle

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