Main article: Demographics of Malaysia

Percentage distribution of Malaysian population by ethnic group, 2010

The percentage distribution of Malaysian population by ethnic group based on 2010 census.

As of the 2010 census, the population of Malaysia was 28,334,135,[5] making it the 42nd most populated country. 91.8 per cent of the population are Malaysian citizens.[197] Malaysian citizens are divided along ethnic lines, with 67.4 per cent considered bumiputera[197] The largest group of bumiputera are Malays, who are defined in the constitution as Muslims who practice Malay customs and culture. They play a dominant role politically.[198] Bumiputera status is also accorded to certain non-Malay indigenous peoples, including ethnic Thais,KhmersChams and the natives of Sabah and Sarawak. Non-Malay bumiputeramake up more than half of Sarawak’s population and over two thirds of Sabah’s population.[2] There also exist aboriginal groups in much smaller numbers on the peninsula, where they are collectively known as the Orang Asli.[199] Laws over who gets bumiputera status vary between states.[200]

Other minorities lack bumiputera status. 24.6 per cent of the population are of Chinese descent, while those of Indian descent comprise 7.3 per cent of the population.[197] The Chinese have historically been dominant in the business and commerce community, and form a plurality of the population of Penang. Immigrants from India, the majority of them Tamils, began arriving in Malaysia early in the 19th century.[201][202] Malaysian citizenship is not automatically granted to those born in Malaysia, but is granted to a child born of two Malaysian parents outside Malaysia. Dual citizenship is not permitted.[203]Citizenship in the states of Sabah and Sarawak in Malaysian Borneo are distinct from citizenship in Peninsular Malaysia for immigration purposes. Every citizen is issued a biometric smart chip identity card known as MyKad at the age of 12, and must carry the card at all times.[204]

A map of Malaysia depicting the expected 2010 estimated population density.

Population density (person per km2) in 2010.

The education system features a non-compulsory kindergarten education followed by six years of compulsory primary education, and five years of optional secondary education.[205] Schools in the primary education system are divided into two categories: national primary schools, which teach in Malay, and vernacular schools, which teach in Chinese or Tamil.[206] Secondary education is conducted for five years. In the final year of secondary education, students sit for the Malaysian Certificate of Education examination.[207] Since the introduction of the matriculation programme in 1999, students who completed the 12-month programme in matriculation colleges can enroll in local universities. However, in the matriculation system, only 10 per cent of places are open to non-bumiputera students.[208]

Putra Mosque in Putrajaya

The infant mortality rate in 2009 was 6 deaths per 1000 births, and life expectancy at birth in 2009 was 75 years.[209] With the aim of developing Malaysia into a medical tourism destination, 5 per cent of the government social sector development budget is spent on health care.[210] The population in concentrated on Peninsular Malaysia[211] where 20 million of approximately 28 million Malaysians live.[38] 70 per cent of the population is urban.[2] Kuala Lumpur is the capital[2] and the largest city in Malaysia,[212] as well as its main commercial and financial centre.[213] Putrajaya, a purpose-built city constructed from 1999, is the seat of government,[214] as many executive and judicial branches of the federal government were moved there to ease growing congestion within Kuala Lumpur.[215] Due to the rise in labour-intensive industries,[216] the country is estimated to have over 3 million migrant workers; about 10 per cent of the population.[217] Sabah-based NGOs estimate that out of the 3 million that make up the population of Sabah, 2 million are illegal immigrants.[218] Malaysia hosts a population of refugees and asylum seekers numbering approximately 171,500. Of this population, approximately 79,000 are from Burma, 72,400 from the Philippines, and 17,700 from Indonesia. Malaysian officials are reported to have turned deportees directly over to human smugglers in 2007, and Malaysia employs RELA, a volunteer militia with a history of controversies, to enforce its immigration law.[219]

Largest cities of Malaysia (2010)[220]

Kuala lumpur skyscrapers.jpg
Kuala Lumpur
Johor Bahru City.jpg
Johor Bahru

Rank City State Population

Ipoh, Perak.jpg
Shah Alam Lake Gardens, Selangor.jpg
Shah Alam

1 Kuala Lumpur  Federal Territory 1,475,337
2 Johor Bahru  Johor 916,409
3 Ipoh  Perak 704,572
4 Shah Alam  Selangor 671,282
5 Petaling Jaya  Selangor 638,516
6 Kuching  Sarawak 617,887
7 George Town  Penang 510,996
8 Kota Kinabalu  Sabah 462,963
9 Kuala Terengganu  Terengganu 343,284
10 Malacca City  Malacca 331,790


Main article: Religion in Malaysia

Percentage distribution of Malaysian population by religion, 2010.

The percentage distribution of Malaysian population by religion based on 2010 census.

The Malaysian constitution says it guarantees freedom of religion while makingIslam the state religion.[221] According to the Population and Housing Census 2010 figures, ethnicity and religious beliefs correlate highly. Approximately 61.3% of the population practice Islam, 19.8% practice Buddhism, 9.2%Christianity, 6.3% Hinduism and 1.3% practice ConfucianismTaoism and other traditional Chinese religions. 0.7% declared no religion and the remaining 1.4% practised other religions or did not provide any information.[5] Sunni Islam ofShafi’i school of jurisprudence is the dominant branch of Islam in Malaysia,[222][223] while 18% are nondenominational Muslims.[224]

The Malaysian constitution strictly defines what makes a “Malay”, considering Malays those who are Muslim, speak Malay regularly, practise Malay customs, and lived in or have ancestors from Brunei, Malaysia and Singapore.[127]Statistics from the 2010 Census indicate that 83.6% of the Chinese population identify as Buddhist, with significant numbers of adherents following Taoism (3.4%) and Christianity (11.1%), along with small Hui-Muslim populations in areas like Penang. The majority of the Indian population follow Hinduism (86.2%), with a significant minority identifying as Christians (6.0%) or Muslims (4.1%). Christianity is the predominant religion of the non-Malay bumiputeracommunity (46.5%) with an additional 40.4% identifying as Muslims.[5]

Muslims are obliged to follow the decisions of Syariah courts in matters concerning their religion. The Islamic judges are expected to follow the Shafi’i legal school of Islam, which is the main madh’hab of Malaysia.[222] The jurisdiction of Syariah courts is limited to Muslims in matters such as marriage,inheritancedivorceapostasyreligious conversion, and custody among others. No other criminal or civil offences are under the jurisdiction of the Shariah courts, which have a similar hierarchy to the Civil Courts. Despite being the supreme courts of the land, the Civil Courts do not hear matters related to Islamic practices.[225]


Main article: Languages of Malaysia

The distribution of language families of Malaysia shown by colours:
(click image to enlarge)




  Land Dayak




  Areas with multiple languages

The official and national language of Malaysia is Malaysian,[2] a standardised form of the Malay language.[226] The terminology as per government policy isBahasa Malaysia (literally “Malaysian language”)[227] but legislation continues to refer to the official language as Bahasa Melayu (literally “Malay language”).[228]The National Language Act 1967 specifies the Latin (Rumi) script as the officialscript of the national language, but does not prohibit the use of the traditionalJawi script.[229]

English remains an active second language, with its use allowed for some official purposes under the National Language Act of 1967.[229] In Sarawak, English is an official state language alongside Malaysian.[230][231][232]Historically, English was the de facto administrative language, with Malay becoming predominant after the 1969 race riots.[233] Malaysian English, also known as Malaysian Standard English, is a form of English derived from British English. Malaysian English is widely used in business, along with Manglish, which is a colloquial form of English with heavy Malay, Chinese, and Tamilinfluences. The government discourages the use of non-standard Malay but has no power to issue compounds or fines to those who use improper Malay on their advertisements.[234][235]

Many other languages are used in Malaysia, which contains speakers of 137 living languages.[236] Peninsular Malaysia contains speakers of 41 of these languages.[237] The native tribes of East Malaysia have their own languages which are related to, but easily distinguishable from, Malay. Iban is the main tribal language in Sarawak while Dusunic and Kadazan languages are spoken by the natives in Sabah.[238] Chinese Malaysians predominantly speak Chinese dialects from the southern provinces of China. The more common Chinese varieties in the country are CantoneseMandarinHokkienHakkaHainanese, and FuzhouTamil is used predominantly by Tamils, who form a majority of Malaysian Indians. Other South Asian languages are also widely spoken in Malaysia, as well as Thai[2] A small number of Malaysians have Caucasianancestry and speak creole languages, such as the Portuguese-based Malaccan Creoles,[239] and the Spanish-based Chavacano language.[240]