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Demographics of Malaysia - statistics & facts

Malaysia has a multi-ethnic and multi-religious society, with a population of around 33 million as of 2020 . In the last decade, its rate of population growth had been slowly decreasing, from 1.56 percent in 2011 to 1.29 percent in 2020. As is the case with many other countries worldwide, Malaysia is experiencing declining rates of population increase. However, this differs greatly among the different ethnic groups, with the Bumiputera having higher crude rates of natural increase compared to the Chinese.

Malaysia’s multi-ethnic and multi-religious society

Malaysian society is categorized into three broad ethnic categories: Bumiputera, which includes the ethnic Malays as well as the indigenous peoples of Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah, and Sarawak; Chinese, and Indian. Those who do not fall under these three broad categories are grouped under ‘Others’. The ethnic composition of Sabah and Sarawak differs slightly from Peninsular Malaysia, due to the eastern states’ larger share of Bumiputera compared to the national average.

The dominant religion in Malaysia is Islam; as of the 2020 census, around 65 percent of the Malaysian population identified as Muslim. This was followed by Buddhism with around 18 percent of the population, and Christianity at nine percent. In Malaysia’s constitution, the Islamic faith is tied to one’s ethnic identity; a person is only considered ethnic Malay if they are also Muslim.

Among the three major ethnic groups in Malaysia, the Bumiputera have the highest fertility rates, at 2,192 per 1,000 women, compared to 981 per 1,000 women for the Chinese population. While the Bumiputera population in Malaysia still enjoys a healthy rate of increase, the Chinese population has been decreasing over the years.

Bumiputera rights and ethnic-based policies

The ethnic and religious categorization of society has had a significant impact on Malaysian politics and policies on education, health, employment, and property ownership. Article 153 of the Malaysian constitution recognizes the inherent rights of the Malays and indigenous peoples. This in turn led to the introduction of the New Economic Policy in 1971, which introduced affirmative action favoring the Bumiputera. This policy was intended to improve the economic situation of the Bumiputera through quotas for higher education, federal scholarships, public service positions, as well as housing subsidies. However, in 2019, almost 50 years after the introduction of the policy, Bumiputera households still earn considerably less than households of other ethnicities. Furthermore, despite being the largest ethnic group in Malaysia, the Bumiputera have the lowest labor force participation rate in the country.

Interesting statistics

In the following 5 chapters, you will quickly find the 26 most important statistics relating to "Demographics of Malaysia".

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