Malaysia Prepares For Ageing Nation As World Population Reaches Seven Billion

Based upon the projection rate and current trend, the Malaysian population is expected to reach 35 million by 2020, with 3.4 million being senior citizens.

(Bernama) — Although mankind is some two million years old, the world’s population has grown slowly during most of human history.

It took until 1850 for the population to hit 1 billion and by 1925 it just touched, two billion.

However, the world population jumped drastically in the past 50 years, from three billion to a projected seven billion this October.

This is due to advancements in health sciences, such as improved vaccines and antibiotics, which have successfully extended life expectancy.

Another factor is the development of medical facilities, especially in developing countries, where population increases seems to be concentrated.

According to a report by the United Nations Population Fund Malaysia (UNFPA), in this year alone approximately 135 million people will be born and 57 million will die, a net increase of 78 million people.

This includes babies who will be born in Uttar Pradesh, a northern Indian state that is known for the highest birth rate in the world.

The report by Harvard University’s Economic and Demography Professor David Bloom says the “demographic centre of gravity” for the population trend has shifted from the developed countries to the developing ones.

He concluded that over the next 40 years nearly all of the 2.3 billion projected increase will be in the less developed regions, with nearly half in Africa.

“The projected population growth is due to the advancements in economies, security and health. But because they are already strained, many developing countries will likely face tremendous difficulties in supplying food, water, housing, and energy to their growing populations, with repercussions for health, security, and economic growth,” said Bloom in the world’s most cited scientific journal, Science.

By contrast, the populations of more developed countries will remain flat, but will age, with fewer working-age adults to support retirees living on social pensions.

On the one side, it would seem that achieving a world population of seven billion is a testament to good healthcare and improved life expectancy.

But it also comes hand in hand with issues like poverty, famine and high mortality rates.

In fact, conflicts between the earth and humans, such as global warming, depleting natural resources and the destruction of the environment, is set to become the world’s largest challenge in preserving life and improving humanity’s well-being.


The “World at 7 Billion” event brings about seven important issues involving the future of the world’s population: the younger generation, the ageing population, women’s empowerment, reducing poverty and social injustice, reproductive health, maintaining a sustainable environment and urbanisation.

Asia accounts for 60 per cent of the world population, thus the stress-load of the continent is expected to be greater. At the same time, it is also undergoing the fastest rate of urbanization, with 14 of 20 of the world’s largest cities located in Asia.

In fact, five of the world’s most densely-populated cities are in India.

Further, many Asian countries continue to struggle with similar issues such as congestion, pollution and social and economic issues. This forces them to come up with strategies to tackle these issues early.


In Malaysia, the National Population and Family Development Board (LPPKN) carried out the Second Population Strategic Plan Study to assess the performance of the national population programme in conjunction with current policies.

The findings will also help in the formulation of a strategic action plan for the future.

One of the main issues is migration. It is estimated that nearly a million highly qualified Malaysians have left Malaysia to work in countries such as Singapore, Australia and Europe.

The study also found states like Selangor, Johor, Negeri Sembilan, Melaka and Penang have better job opportunities due to economic development and population density to the extent of resulting in a high rate of internal migration.

LPPKN Director-General Datuk Aminah Abdul Rahman said this happened because of the uneven economic development between the states.

Beside that, she noted that the influx of immigrants also contributed to the issue, especially in terms of social problems and crime.

Today, seven percent of the Malaysian population are foreigners and about one-fifth of the job market is filled by foreign workers.

“Many enter Malaysia using student visas, riding on our effort to turn this nation into an education hub. However, they’ve contributed to many social issues that clash with our eastern culture,” she said.


Aminah expects Malaysia to reach the status of an ageing nation by 2030, when those aged 60 and above make up 15 per cent of the population.

Today, senior citizens number 2.1 million, representing 7.3 per cent of the Malaysian population of 28 million.

Based upon the projection rate and current trend, the Malaysian population is expected to reach 35 million by 2020, with 3.4 million being senior citizens.

Also expected in the same year is for the population’s life expectancy to increase to 74.2 years for men and 79.1 years for women, compared with 72.6 and 77.5 years, respectively, in 2010.


The trend clearly shows a need for the nation to prepare in advance, especially in providing adequate facilities, infrastructure and healthcare for senior citizens.

As a country that looks ahead, Aminah said, Malaysia would be making strategic plans using senior citizens as a resource in the course of preparing for the eventuality of an ageing nation.

“We have lined up various policies and programmes, such as the Senior Citizens Action Plan and Policy, which received the government’s nod last January,” said Aminah.

The plan states, among others, of the need for 700 geriatric specialists by 2020. The country currently has only 21 local geriatric specialists.

Meanwhile, LPPKN will work with the Health Ministry to increase the number of specialist doctors for senior citizens in the country.


LPPKN is also focusing on several family issue trends, such as fewer senior citizens opting to live with their children, more people marrying late or not at all, and the tendency to keep family sizes to a minimum.

Aminah said, on the one hand smaller family sizes was a good trend as heads of the families can ensure a better quality of life for each family member.

On the other hand, a smaller number of children may result in a smaller number of care-givers and, subsequently, making support services such as day care for senior citizens and children more important.

“Quality service is expected to be imperative in overcoming the issue of too many highly-educated women giving up their jobs to take care of their children,” said Aminah.

She noted that the vacuum left by women in the workforce was around 56 per cent, a figure which would definitely leave an impact on the country’s economy.

To tackle the issue, LPPKN is planning an upgrade of the policies that could help career women balance family life and work. This includes reviewing current regulations to help ensure both parents can continue working.