Return migrants have much to contribute to sending countries. They bring new skills and expertise to their origin economies. Their return could be incentivised through job matching services, integration into the labour market with added benefits commensurating with their acquired experience, integration into the local community via tax and education subsidies and skills partnership programmes.
Another incentive would be to confirm job placement in the origin country, close to the expiry date of a potential returnee’s contract in the receiving state. This would require continuous collaboration between sending and receiving states. These ambitious suggestions could materialize if governments in sending countries take the initiative to educate citizens on the economic value of learning from returnees’ experience abroad. Returnees could assist in training locals on the skills required for origin economies that are in the developing stage. They could contribute to innovation and technological advancement of local businesses and industries via knowledge sharing. Onus is on the sending state to strategise and benefit from the re-entry of returnees to the local labour market.
Thailand’s Reverse Brain Drain (RBD) project’s first priority is to promote technology transfer through mission-oriented projects, using highly experienced Thai diaspora. It recruits Thais who are abroad and facilitates their return to work in state agencies or the private sector, with various incentives. Thailand is aggressively engaged in RBD. It identifies special projects and matches them to the highest potential in the Thai diaspora. It facilitates and coordinates technology transfer via short-term visits. It also promotes and facilitates the permanent return of top Thai professionals. Its target groups are experts and early career professionals. The special feature of the RBD is its provision of services, assistance and monetary incentives to eligible Thais. It also offers additional privileges in the form of grants to participants in special projects. Permanent returnees receive remuneration that commensurates with their experience.
Malaysia’s TalentCorp, which is a Returning Expert Programme (REP), has been yielding positive outcomes. Its initiatives target professionals, students, employers, as well as partners in academia and industry. TalentCorp’s key achievements are as follow:
- The Scholarship Talent Attraction and Retention (STAR) programme has offered more than 5200 scholarships.
- More than 630 women have returned to the workforce under the Career Comeback Programme.
- Female labour participation rate has increased by 7.3%, representing an additional 750,000 women in the workforce.
- The REP has approved more than 4,568 applications since 2011.
- The Critical Occupations List (COL) has expanded in scope, from 10 sectors in 2016 to 18 sectors in 2017.
- The Nurturing Expert talent (NEXT) programme has profiled more than 16,000 students for the workforce.
TalentCorp has increased the probability of return by 40% and its programmes have not adversely impacted government finances.
These are two strong models that could help other developing economies in ASEAN to embrace return and reintegration.