A Perfect Partnership... or Is It? Taiwanese Firms in Malaysia and Taiwan-Educated Malaysian Chinese Returnees

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 09:21
Oral Presentation
Ai-hsuan MA, National Chengchi University, Taiwan
Recent research has noted the geographical unevenness of cultural capital, arguing that the portability and recognition of overseas credentials are not automatic but contingent upon social, economic, and political connections and limitations. Since foreign direct investments generally create local employment opportunities and boost the demand for more diversified human capitals, it is worth examining whether and how investments of foreign firms influence the appraisal mechanism of overseas credentials in the host labor market, and how this in turn shapes overseas graduates' opportunities for social mobility at home. By taking Taiwanese firms in Malaysia and Taiwan-educated Malaysian Chinese returnees into a case study, the paper investigated the relationship between foreign investments and the portability of overseas education. Initial assumptions were that Taiwan-acquired credentials, skills, and cultural knowledge would be better recognized and rewarded in Taiwanese firms, thus Taiwan-educated Malaysian Chinese would be more likely to be attracted to work in Taiwanese firms and preferred by Taiwanese entrepreneurs in the hiring process. Moreover, the establishment of Taiwanese firms in Malaysia may increase the value of Taiwanese-acquired education that had long been disparaged in Malaysia, thus facilitating upward social mobility of Malaysian Chinese holding Taiwanese degrees. The analysis was based on the interview data collected between August of 2016 and July of 2017 from 58 Taiwanese business owners and managers, Taiwan-educated Malaysian Chinese returnees, and related organizational leaders in northern, central and southern regions (Penang, Greater Kuala Lumpur, and Johor) in Malaysia. The results demonstrate that the partnership between Taiwanese firms in Malaysia and Taiwan-educated Malaysian Chinese returnees existed only in a very limited sense. This disjoint can be attributed to the replacability and instrumental values of experiences and cultural capital accumulated overseas, the organizational scale and the significance of foreign firms in the host labor market, market competitions, and regional economies.