Society of Malaysia



Population per sq km: 92

Life expectancy: 75 years

Population: 30,331,000 (2015); 80 per cent of people live in Peninsular Malaysia, 75 per cent in urban areas and nine per cent in urban agglomerations of more than a million people; growth 1.4 per cent p.a. 1990–2015; birth rate 17 per 1,000 people (37 in 1970); life expectancy 75 years (61 in 1970).

The society is multiracial with an estimated 53 per cent Malays, 25 per cent Chinese, 11 per cent indigenous peoples and ten per cent Indians. In Sarawak, the main indigenous peoples – collectively known in that state as the Dayaks – are the Iban, Bidayuh and Orang Ulu; and in Sabah, the Kadazan Dusan, Bajau, Melanaus and Murut. Other ethnic groups in Malaysia include Europeans and Eurasians.

Language: The national language is Malay (Bahasa Malaysia), but English is widely spoken. Other languages include various Chinese dialects, Tamil and indigenous languages such as Iban and Kadazan.

Religion: Muslims 61 per cent, Buddhists 20 per cent, Christians nine per cent and Hindus six per cent (2010 census). Islam is the official religion; freedom of worship is guaranteed under the constitution.

Media: All newspapers in Malaysia must renew their publication licences annually. English-language dailies include New Straits Times, The Star, The Sun, Malay Mail and Business Times. Malaysiakini is an online news service.

Public broadcaster Radio Television Malaysia operates two television channels and many radio stations in Malay, Tamil, Chinese or English. There are several commercial TV networks and a number of private radio stations.

Some 95 per cent of households have TV sets (2006). There are 232 personal computers per 1,000 people (2006).

Public holidays: New Year’s Day (in most but not all states), Labour Day (1 May), King’s Birthday (first Saturday in June), National Day (31 August), Malaysia Day (16 September), Christmas Day, and some local state holidays. Flower festivals are held in most states during a week in mid-July. For most states the weekend comprises a half-day on Saturday plus Sunday, but in Kelantan, Perlis and Terengganu half-day Thursday plus Friday.

Religious and other festivals whose dates vary from year to year include Chinese New Year (two days in most states), Prophet’s Birthday, Wesak Day (Buddha Purnima, April/May), Hari Raya Puasa (Eid al-Fitr/end of Ramadan, two days), Hari Raya Qurban (Eid al-Adha/Feast of the Sacrifice), Deepavali (Diwali, October/November, except Labuan and Sarawak) and Awal Muharam (Islamic New Year).