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Wealthy Brunei facing brain drain

October 31, 2013

Labour experts opine that Brunei's economy is not growing and diversifying fast enough to create jobs for its graduates.

FEATURE

By Arno Maierbrugger

Brunei has a high living standard, its residents are wealthy, the country is safe and clean, all infrastructure is in place and all public systems work.

So why would someone “run away” from Brunei?

Senseless as it sounds, Brunei does suffer from a brain drain in the academic sector and among its highly-skilled workforce.

The private sector as well as the public sector is being jilted by trained professionals who, despite being born, bred and groomed in the nation, choose to live and practice their skills abroad.

This includes doctors, lawyers, engineers and architects and also graphic designers, ICT professionals, media and communications graduates who are seeking “to gain relevant experience abroad” before returning to Brunei to contribute and give back to home.

But the reality is many of them don’t come back.

The Brunei government has repeatedly reminded citizens “to serve the nation as true patriots” and not to migrate with accomplished academic certificates to serve in other countries, especially when these certificates and the entire education have been funded by the Brunei government through scholarships.

However, skilled people who migrated to other countries (many choose the UK) argue that there are just too many incentives to leave Brunei.

Salaries  are the primary reason according to job migrants.

For instance someone with a master level degree can earn possibly B$2,000 a month in Brunei.

But the same degree would draw 3,500 pounds in the UK, which is about B$7,000 considerably more even after tax deductions and higher living expenses.

On the career path, the same job in the UK would pay 5,000 pounds in a few years but just B$3,500 in Brunei.

Legal action

To stifle the brain drain the Brunei government is now preparing to take legal action at least against government-funded students who refuse to come home after completing their studies abroad.

For example, in 2012, 20 doctors and other medical specialists didn’t return to Brunei after finishing their training.

This has caused intense discussions about Brunei’s education system and flaws in the scholarship process.

While appealing to Brunei citizens’ patriotic mind, may be one way to address the problem, the other would be to rethink the correlations between Brunei’s education system and the labour market.

There are too many scholarships for too few jobs, critics argue.

Labour experts opine that the underlying reasons for the brain drain might also be that there are not enough career opportunities for graduates, because Brunei’s economy is not growing and diversifying fast enough to create these jobs.

The solution they believe lies in diversifying from Brunei’s core business sector.

Brunei, experts sayd needs to create around 6,500 new jobs annually and raise salaries significantly in the non-oil sector to eventually resolve this problem.

This report first appeared in http://www.investvine.com


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