Singapore, November 20:

Rigid labour policies in many Asian countries threaten to drive away the region’s top brains to Europe and the US, a Standard Chartered Bank report warned today. Socio-political barriers and cultural attitudes restrict the free flow of professionals around the region, the research team said.

Asia lags behind the European Union (EU) and North America in attracting top talent, which has flowed to Western economies helped by “the expansion of the EU and successive relaxations in US immigration policies”, reported The Straits Times.

Many countries are not doing enough to enable the free flow of top Asian professionals — from computer engineers to bankers — to economies where their skills are most needed. Among labour-short developed economies such as Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, South Korea and Singapore, 70 per cent of migrant workers come from Asia, said Nicholas Kwan, head of economic research.

Such expatriates typically come from less developed countries such as India, China, Indonesia and the Philippines, he said, adding that the majority are in low-skilled jobs such as maids and factory workers. Only 10 per cent of migrants in Hong Kong from overseas are professionals. In Malaysia, ‘a mere 1.9 per cent’ are in this category, the report stated. Restrictive labour policies may push the best brains in the region to work in the US or EU.