Malaysia Country Report

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When Malaysia was formed in 1963, the population of the whole country was approximately nine million. The total population increased to more than 10.8 million in 1970 and 13.7 million in 1980. The rate of population growth had declined gradually from a high level of 3.0 per cent per annum in 1966 to 2.30 percent in 1980. With the high influx of immigrants during the period of 1980-1991, the average annual growth rate has risen to 2.64 per cent per annum giving the total population of Malaysia in 1991 to more than 18.5 million. The 2000 population census gives a population of 23.3 million, growing at an annual growth rate of 2.60 per cent per annum for the period 1991-2000 (Table 1).

In terms of age structure, the present population of Malaysia can be described as “youthful”. Due to high fertility in the last two decades coupled with declining mortality, as many as 33 per cent of the current population are under the age of 15 years. The current median age of the population is less than 24 years. With regard to the aged population (65 years and older), there has been a clear trend towards ageing population. The proportion of aged population is currently at 4.0 per cent as compared to 3.7 per cent in 1991. The overall dependency ratio has decreased from 69.2 per cent in 1991 to 59.1 per cent in 2000 and expected to further decline to 57.8 per cent in 2020. The drop in the dependency ratio was due to the increase in the proportion of the working age population of 15-64 years as well as slower growth of the population below 15 years.

In terms of spatial distribution, the proportion of the population living in urban areas has increased from 50.7 per cent in 1991 to 61.8 per cent in 2000, growing at an annual average rate of 4.8 per cent. This increase was due to rural-urban migration, spurred by expectations of jobs opportunities and a better quality of life, growth of new urban areas and extension of existing administrative boundaries.

The decline in fertility and mortality levels in Malaysia has been consistent with the rapid economic growth that the country has been experiencing. While there has been general awareness of the need to integrate population factors within the broad framework of development, the vision of attaining an industrialised and developed nation status by the year 2020 would necessarily require closer understanding of the implications and consequences of future changes in population trends and dynamics.

The population of Malaysia, which is 23.3 million in 2000, is expected to grow to about 33.4 million by the year 2020. The increase in population size for the next two decades is due to the in-built momentum of population growth arising mainly from maturing of young age groups of the last few decades into larger fecund age groups.

The future age structure of the population will have considerable implications for social and economic development. In the next two decades, Malaysia will still have a moderately “young” population, with those within the age group 0-14 constituting 30.5 per cent of the total population. This implies that much of our development resources will still need to be devoted to cater for the needs of the younger age groups, particularly in terms of child care, education and other social services. While attending to the needs of the younger segment of the population, there is also concern for the steady increase of older persons, both numerically and in proportionate terms. Steps will have to be undertaken to plan for the needs of the projected two million elderly by the year 2020.

Malaysia stands unique today as one of the very few countries which has, within a relatively short period, succeeded not only in achieving growth but also in addressing more effectively the problems of poverty and economic imbalances....
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