Malaysia Sets Out to Win Back its High-Flying International Finance Professionals

Malaysia is looking at initiatives to attract back nationals who have acquired international experience in key professional sectors such as finance and technology, to return home and contribute to developing its economy, says a new report.


The report found a growing trend across Asia of countries trying to recruit national professionals who have gained valuable professional experience abroad, so that their countries benefit from the skills and experience these expats have acquired.


The Global Professionals on the Move 2013 report carried out by global specialist recruiter Hydrogen, highlights the value of international experience for professionals everywhere and charts important global trends for employers, recruiters and for professionals themselves.


Some 66% of global professionals who responded said their employers rated international experience as important or very important. An overwhelming 98% of respondents who had relocated recommended the experience, and 86% said they wanted to stay longer.


The rising value of Asian professionals with international experience is a new feature of the global market in professional skills. Asians who have worked away from home, and whose home countries are now becoming economic powerhouses, are exceptionally valuable, as they combine international skills and training with a profound understanding of local culture and customs, so crucial to doing business in Asia.


While different countries are using different means, Malaysia is leading the way with its Returning Expert Programme.


“This was set up to help overcome shortages of expertise and to build a world class workforce in Malaysia,” explains Simon Walker, Managing Director for Asia of global specialist recruiters Hydrogen. “It offers return-homers income tax breaks, tax-free ownership of two Malaysian-made cars, fast-track residency for foreign spouses and children, and priority entry to the best schools for children.”


Malaysia is positioning itself as a major oil and gas player both in Asia and globally thanks to its widespread natural resources. As a result, it is now one of the major oil and gas producers in the Asia Pacific region.


But it is also diversifying. Besides oil and gas, and its established strengths in international trade and finance, Malaysia is also building its profile in technology, for example through Cyberjaya town and technology park at the core of the Multimedia Super Corridor south of Kuala Lumpur, which has attracted a number of multinational tech companies.


Malaysia has a highly-educated English-speaking workforce, and costs for businesses there are substantially lower than those of its neighbour Singapore.


All this means that Malaysia is set to become increasingly popular for skilled professionals to live and work in and it will close the gap between itself and the traditional hotspots.


This reverse brain drain in Asia is a shift in global professional migration patterns and raises the question whether those without local origins will increasingly lose the chance to work in the region.


Simon Walker thinks not, “Employers across the region will increasingly want return-homers, and will start profiling the type of expat they want. Those with a distinct advantage will have lived or be currently living in Asia and have an understanding of the local culture and possibly language. Ultimately it will be the skills and the local knowledge which count, so that an expat who has been there a number of years and has all the relevant skills and experience will be on a par with a return-homer.”

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