WITH nearly a quarter of its 4.9 million population comprising of non-residents, neighbouring Singapore provides a useful example of how to attract foreign workers. Since the 1980s, Singapore had invested heavily in high-skilled industries, such as research and development, and information technology.
In doing so, it has actively recruited foreign talent in an effort to build a highly-skilled workforce.
Darren Chang, 25, a Malaysian consultant working in Singapore, cites Singapore's relaxed immigration policies as a primary reason for staying.
"They have made it really easy for foreigners to work and reside here."
Skilled workers with graduate degrees, professional qualifications or specialist skills are allowed to bring their families with them and are exempted from any monthly levies.
Those earning more than S$1,800 (RM4,200) are eligible to apply for permanent residency within six months of working in Singapore.
The application process is also short, taking between three and six months.
Singapore PRs enjoy many of the citizens' benefits, including medical subsidies and the right to purchase government-sponsored Housing Development Board homes.
Zarina Othman, 28, a Malaysian-born Singapore PR, believes Singapore's efficient public transport system and lower cost of living puts it at an advantage over Malaysia.
"I don't have to spend on a car here as public transport is so cheap and reliable."
Asked what could be done to woo Malaysians overseas back home, Zarina said skilled workers' salaries needed to match their earnings elsewhere.
"We need to be reassured that we will enjoy the same standards of living back home as we do overseas."
She also cited the English-based education system as a factor.
"Since there's no language barrier, many foreigners are opting to send their children to public schools here instead of international schools."
Singapore has also focused strongly on recruiting foreign students to their schools and universities by establishing itself as a regional arts and learning hub.
- New Straits Times