Number of immigrants in Malaysia 2005-2019

As of 2019, the number of immigrants in Malaysia amounted to approximately 3.43 million. As one of the biggest economies in Southeast Asia, Malaysia is an attractive destination for workers from neighboring countries seeking better wages and employment.

Indonesians make up the majority of immigrants

With their shared culture, religion and a very similar language, Indonesia was the single biggest contributor of immigrants to Malaysia. Indonesians also make up the bulk of migrant workers there, with many having sought employment in construction, agriculture, or as domestic helpers. In 2017, however, the estimated number of Indonesian migrant workers in Malaysia differed from the official numbers given by the Indonesian government, indicating a significant portion who might have undertaken the journey to work in Malaysia illegally.

Perceptions on immigration

Immigration is a sensitive topic in Malaysia, and more Malaysians seemed to view it negatively than positively. Immigrants, especially those in Malaysia illegally, are routinely blamed for a host of problems from crime to loss of jobs, and Malaysians seemed to believe that there were more immigrants than there actually were in the country. Despite their misgivings, however, Malaysia needed these immigrants to take on jobs that most locals would not do and to make up for the shortage of manpower it faced.

Number of immigrants in Malaysia from 2005 to 2019

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Release date

September 2019



Survey time period

2005 to 2019

Supplementary notes

The estimated number of international immigrants, in the middle of the indicated year; generally represents the number of persons born in a country other than where they live. When data on the place of birth are unavailable, the number of non-citizens is used as a proxy for the number of international immigrants. The foreign population includes refugees, some of whom may not be foreign-born.

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