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Seeking a better life somewhere out there Print E-mail
Tuesday, 28 July 2009 00:34
(NST) When certain politicians make inflammatory statements, we have to send them thank you cards, because then the numbers wanting to leave go up.

KUALA LUMPUR: Higher income. A better lifestyle. More options for higher education.

What moved Malaysians to emigrate in the 1980s still moves them today.

But a researcher who has studied emigration and immigration trends since the early 1980s said it was impossible to narrow down the main reasons people opted to settle down abroad.

"There are many reasons, including the type of high-profile jobs they can get, the favourable exchange rate and the physical environment being better, with a lower crime rate and so on."

He noted that just as there may be many Malaysians wanting to leave for Australia, there was a large number of Australians wanting to emigrate to the US in search of better opportunities, suggesting that a search for a better life was a universal thing.

According to the Australian government's Department of Immigration and Citizenship website, emigration from Australia had increased steadily in recent years.

In 2007/8, 76,923 people left Australia permanently, and of these Australians, 49.1 per cent were born overseas.

According to the website of the Office of National Statistics in the United Kingdom, an estimated 340,000 people emigrated from the UK in 2007, down from 400,000 in 2006. However, in comparison with the 1990s, emigration remains high, the website noted.

The global trend of people movement could also be seen from the many foreigners who want to live in Malaysia under the Malaysia My Second Home Programme (MM2H), which is designed to attract long-stay foreigners with the offer of 10-year renewable social visas.

According to the Tourism Ministry's MM2H Centre's assistant director Dayang Balkis Ramli, 7,762 foreigners remained active participants under the programme between 1996 and last month.

The top five countries they came from were Bangladesh, the UK, Japan, China and Taiwan.

Political analyst Wong Chin Huat also feels that since last year's general election, more and more Malaysians had greater faith in the country's democratic system.

The effect, he said, could be that more and more Malaysians living abroad wanted to return home.

In 1990, academicians S. Gunasekaran and Gerard Sullivan had noted that it was mainly non-Malays who emigrated and said it could have been due to uneven opportunities for them in education and government-related economic activities, the rise in Islamic extremism, the emphasis given to Malay as a medium of instruction in universities and schools, and concerns about the standard of the education system (Cross Border Labour Flows in South East Asia: Patterns and Prospects, Institute of South East Asian Studies, Singapore).

Whether these perceptions were based on facts were "debatable", they wrote, but they did appear to colour non-Malays' perceptions and influence them to emigrate.

Malaysian professionals such as teachers, nurses, surveyors and skilled technicians were attracted to better wages and working conditions overseas and what they believed was a more egalitarian lifestyle -- including the relative ease with which they could own a house and their children could get a tertiary education.

Between 1983 and 1990, at least 40,000 Malaysians migrated to Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the US -- at the rate of about 5,000 per year, according to People on the Move: An overview of recent immigration and emigration in Malaysia by Patrick Pillai (Institute of Strategic and International Studies, 1992).

But in 2007 and last year, Australia received 5,001 Malaysian immigrants -- up from 4,654 the previous year, according to Australia's Migration Programme Outcome.

James Yap, who manages Rayford Migration Services, said the emigration business had mushroomed since the 1990s. When he started out as an agent nearly five years ago, there were only two agents helping Malaysians emigrate to Australia. Now, there are eight.

"In the beginning, I considered myself lucky to get five applications at one time. Now, there are close to 40 applications at one time and I am in the process of hiring more marketing personnel."

Current demand for emigration to Australia is strong, he noted, adding that the number of applications tended to spike upwards whenever there was political upheaval in the country.

"When certain politicians make inflammatory statements, we have to send them thank you cards, because then the numbers wanting to leave go up," Yap said.

The agent claimed there was a push factor in Malaysia now because of the uncertain political scenario and a pull factor in Australia in terms of lifestyle, higher income and an egalitarian system.

The majority of would-be emigrants were younger Malaysians who had studied in Australia, decided to give it a try by coming home to work, but were now eager to go back, he noted.

"Times may be bad now economically, but if you are an Australian PR (permanent resident), you would get assistance from the government; the safety net is always there."

Whenever a political issue is played up, more people start filling up forms to leave the country for greener pastures, agreed Thena Nadarajah of Auslife Migration Consultants.

Source: http://mt.m2day.org/2008/content/view/24911/84/


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