Malaysia Recruitment

Malaysia has Southeast Asia’s third largest economy which is steadily growing but the Malaysian recruitment market and economy have both suffered from a persistent brain drain that the country’s government has struggled to address.

The Malaysia Diaspora and Malaysian Returnees

Despite having a fairly advanced economy, Malaysia has long suffered a persistent and steady brain drain. In 2011, the World Bank reported that there were at least 1 million Malaysians working overseas and this Malaysian brain drain was reportedly increasing.

Many of those leaving Malaysia are Malaysian Chinese who leave in part due to the country’s Bumiputera affirmative action policies which favor ethnic Malays at the expense of non-Malays but increasingly Malays themselves are also leaving to seek better job opportunities abroad. World Bank figures also show that 54% of the Malaysian brain drain has gone to Singapore (helping to replace Singaporeans who leave) while 15% went to Australia, 10% to the United States and 5% to the United Kingdom while large numbers of Malaysian Chinese professionals can also be found working in both China and Vietnam.

In response to the Malaysian brain drain as well as a need to recruit and keep highly skilled foreign professionals to fulfill Malaysia’s New Economic Model (NEM) plan to create a high-value economy, the Malaysian government has set up Talent Corporation Malaysia and specifically the Returning Expert Programme (REP). Under Talent Corporation Malaysia’s Returning Expert Programme (REP), Malaysian returnees can avail of an optional flat tax of 15% for five years, tax exemptions for personal effects brought into Malaysia, 2 locally assembled vehicles tax free and PR for any foreign spouse or children.

However, Malaysia has not had much luck with earlier brain gain programs. Malaysia’s first brain gain program, known as the Returning Scientist Programme, was launched in 1995 only to be ended three year’s later after attracting just 93 researchers, scientists and engineers – 70 of whom were foreigners and 23 who were Malaysians.

Meanwhile, the Returning Expert Programme (REP) has had more but still limited success. Specifically and since its inception in January 2001 until early 2010, 1,455 applications were processed with 840 applications having been approved and 601 of the approved applicants officially returning to work in various sectors in Malaysia.

Explanations for the failure of Malaysian brain gain programs to recruit Malaysian expatriates to return include red tape at the implementation level, problems with the immigration process (especially for family members not born in Malaysia or not Malaysian) and the fact that dual citizenship is not allowed.

The Malaysia Recruitment Market

The Malaysian recruitment market has strengthened since the end of the financial crisis with job opportunities on the rise in most sectors of the economy. Moreover, Penang, which has been nicknamed Silicon Island, is increasingly an important part of the global electronics supply chain. In fact, Penang is already the home of high tech electronics MNC giants like Agilent, Altera, AMD, Bosch, Dell, Hitachi, Intel, Motorola, Osram, Plexus Corporation and Seagate who have set up important manufacturing facilities on the island and more companies are following in their footsteps.

Meanwhile, opportunities for foreign expatriates with strong technical skills tend to be concentrated in Malaysia’s oil and gas sector as well as in the Malaysian IT sector as the country seeks to become an IT services hub. In addition, Malaysia is also increasingly becoming an important center for Islamic banking and finance and it should be noted that the country has the highest number of female workers working in Islamic banking.

Working in Malaysia

Foreign expatriates coming to work in Malaysia will need to obtain a Professional Work Permit (DP10) arranged by their prospective employer and usually good for two years. However and general speaking, the ability to employ and the number of foreign expatriates who can be employed at a Malaysian employer will depend upon a company’s paid-up capital and whether it’s a foreign company receiving special investment incentives. In addition, foreign expatriates who are already working in Malaysia for at least three years should check to see if they meet the income and other eligibility requirements of Talent Corporation Malaysia’s Residence Pass – Talent (RP-T) scheme which is intended to encourage high quality expatriate talent to remain in Malaysia. For further information about Malaysian work permits and Malaysian visas in general, visit the websites of the Immigration Department of Malaysia or the Malaysian Investment Development Authority (MIDA).

On the tax front, Malaysia income tax rates are progressive up to 26% while individuals who do not meet Malaysia residence requirements are taxed at a flat rate of 26%. An individual will be considered a tax resident in Malaysia if he or she resides in the country for 182 days or more during a calendar year. Likewise, residency may be established by physical presence in the country for a mere day if it can be linked to a period of residence of at least 182 consecutive days in an adjoining year. In addition, individuals in Malaysia are taxed on income derived from the country while foreign-source income is not taxable. For further information about Malaysia tax rates or Malaysian taxes in general, visit, KPMG’s Taxation of International Executives page for Malaysia or the website of Malaysia’s Inland Revenue Board.

Malaysia Recruitment and Jobs Resources

For additional Malaysia recruitment resources, check out the Malaysia tagged posts from our Brain Drain to Brain Gain blog as well as our Malaysia jobs page.

  • RSS Malaysia Archives – Brain Gain Asia LLC

    • Brain drain in Malaysia: Why Malaysians don’t want to come back home July 8, 2020
      In response to another article (“Malaysia losing talent it needs to climb world ladder, Fitch unit says”) in the Malay Mail, Malaysian Rueben Ananthan Santhana Dass has written an excellent piece where he describes other factors contributing to Malaysia’s brain … Continue reading → The post Brain drain in Malaysia: Why Malaysians don’t want to […]
    • Belt and read: How China is exporting education and influence to Malaysia and other Asean countries August 2, 2017
      The South China Morning Post has a lengthy article about how Xiamen University Malaysia, a China-backed university that opened last year, is the model for President Xi Jinping’s vision of exporting education in order to marry Beijing’s trade ambitions with … Continue reading → The post Belt and read: How China is exporting education and […]
    • Survey: Employee (dis)engagement in Asia May 26, 2017
      The Asian Nikkei Review has noted a recent survey by Gallup conducted globally from 2014 through 2016 which found that workers in East Asia are much less engaged in their jobs than their counterparts in the rest of the world. … Continue reading → The post Survey: Employee (dis)engagement in Asia appeared first on Brain […]
    • The Human Capital Report 2015: Asia findings May 29, 2015
      The Human Capital Report 2015 (recently published by the World Economic Forum in collaboration with Mercer) showed Asia-Pacific, the world’s most populous region, scoring towards the middle of the range of the Human Capital Index results, with an overall average … Continue reading → The post The Human Capital Report 2015: Asia findings appeared first […]
    • Migrating To Australia Good Meh??? September 7, 2014
      Malaysians Ken and Michael Soong, who have been living in Australia since 2004, have written Migrating To Australia Good Meh???, a book that chronicles their experiences as new migrants down under. Both brothers were studying in Australia prior to migrating. … Continue reading → The post Migrating To Australia Good Meh??? appeared first on Brain […]
    • A glass ceiling for Asian managers at Western employers? August 18, 2013
      The Wall Street Journal has a lengthy article about the lack of Asians in upper management or executive roles at western MNCs in Asia as the top slots are usually still filled with westerner expats. Traditionally when Western MNCs entered … Continue reading → The post A glass ceiling for Asian managers at Western employers? […]
    • Entrepreneurs create the “American dream” back home in Asia June 12, 2013
      CNBC has a lengthy article about Asians shunning the “American dream” to return home. The article began by profiling Thomas Woo who returned home after studying in the USA to become a co-founder and president of City Super – a … Continue reading → The post Entrepreneurs create the “American dream” back home in Asia […]
    • For western expats in Asia, the job market will keep getting tougher May 22, 2013
      For westerners thinking of coming to Asia to further their careers, the New York Times has a must read article about how the job market in Asia is gradually becoming less welcoming for westerners – and its not due to … Continue reading → The post For western expats in Asia, the job market will […]
    • Asia is relying less and less on Western expats June 29, 2012
      The Financial Times has a lengthy article about how the executive expatriate salary package in Asia has traditionally included a housing allowance, school fees and perhaps even a car with a driver, but that sort of ship has largely sailed … Continue reading → The post Asia is relying less and less on Western expats […]
    • Asia’s endangered species: The expat March 28, 2012
      Expatriates or would-be expats who hope to further their careers in Asia, should read a lengthy Wall Street Journal piece entitled: Asia’s Endangered Species: The Expat. So why are expats in Asia considered an endangered species? Experts consulted by the … Continue reading → The post Asia’s endangered species: The expat appeared first on Brain […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *