Malaysia’s population hits 28m amid slowing growth


By Lee Wei Lian, The Malaysian Insider

PUTRAJAYA, July 29 — Malaysia’s population doubled in size from 13.7 million in 1980 to 28.3 million last year, revealed the 2010 census released today.

The rate of growth in the last 10 years, however, was two per cent, which was lower than the 2.6 per cent population growth recorded between 1980 to 1990 and from 1990 to 2000.

Bumiputeras numbered 17.5 million, or 67.4 per cent of the population, while Chinese made up 24.6 per cent of the population at 6.4 million, Indians 7.3 per cent of the population at 1.9 million while “others” made up 0.7 per cent of the population at 200,000.

Foreigners, meanwhile, made up 8.2 per cent of the population at 2.3 million.

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Tan Sri Nor Mohamed Yakcop, said at the launch of the census report here today that Malaysia’s fertility rate, although falling, was 2.3 per cent which is still higher than the replacement rate of 2.1 per cent.

“This is good news,” he said. “We need the critical mass of people to drive consumption-led growth.”

Asked about smaller countries such as Switzerland which has a population of just seven million but is one of the wealthiest and most advanced countries in the world, Nor Yakcop said that it was still good for Malaysia to have a growing population to support domestic industries.

Former prime minister Tun Mahathir Mohamed had, in the 1980’s, wanted Malaysia to achieve a 70 million-strong population.

The UN recently projected that the world’s population will hit seven billion in October this year, which is one billion more than just 10 years ago, raising questions about the sustainability of the world’s population and the increasing strain on natural resources.

Commodity prices have already hit record levels due to increased demand from fast developing economies such as India and China.

But while much of the world’s population growth is projected to take place in poor countries, developed economies are grappling with the problem of increasing longevity where a shrinking working population is expected to support a growing elderly population.

Nor Yakcop pointed out that based on the census, Malaysia enjoyed the opposite trend whereby its dependency ratio had decreased from over 50 non-working people being supported by every 100 workers, to 48.5 non-workers for every 100 workers in 2010.