Malaysia Social Condition Facts

Social conditions

In half a century, Malaysia has evolved from a poor agricultural country to a successful industrialized country. High economic growth has contributed to reducing both the proportion of poor Malaysians and the economic gaps in society.

In 1970, almost half of the population lived in poverty, while the proportion of poor Malaysians in the early 2010s had dropped to a few percent. Nowadays, the poor are mainly found in the countryside, where many Malays live.

  • Countryaah Official Site: Official statistics for population in Malaysia, including population growth, density, and estimation in next 50 years.

The indigenous people orang asli on the Malacca peninsula is the most marginalized group. The rights of indigenous peoples are violated with regard to the right to land and culture. They are often relocated for dams and other things to be built.

malaysia population

The disputed bumiputra policy

Malaysia’s bumiputra policy was introduced in 1970 and its primary objective was to eradicate poverty in 20 years and remove the link between ethnic belonging and employment (see also Population and language and Economic overview). Bumiputra (in practice, mainly the Malays) would be encouraged to increase its ownership interest in the business community and to have better opportunities for education and attractive employment, including through quotas.

Bumiputra policy did not eradicate poverty, but Malaysia’s high growth meant that conditions also improved for the poor. The privileges of the Malays – based only on ethnicity, not on economic status – have also meant that the country’s Indians are now among the country’s poorest.

One of the goals of the bumiputra policy was also to give bumiputra access to 30 percent of the country’s assets. According to several studies, this goal has already been exceeded, but the government still claims that bumiputra has only about a quarter of the country’s wealth.

Politics also helped to increase corruption, as it allowed Malaysians in the political establishment to enrich themselves and their own.

Healthcare and security systems

Health care is generally good, especially in cities. In the countryside there are mobile health centers, but it is unclear how well they reach out to remote areas.

Almost all residents have access to clean drinking water and sewage.

The social welfare system is a combination of government contributions with, among other things, cash support for low-income earners and private grants. The government sponsors social work among the elderly and the disabled, which is also supported by many voluntary organizations.

The pension funds are built up with contributions from both entrepreneurs and employees.

Women’s situation

The law prohibits multiple marriages, but Muslim men are nevertheless allowed to have several wives, which also occurs. A small but growing number of women are allowed by the Sharia courts to divorce without the consent of the husband. Muslim inheritance law disadvantages women.

In the state of Kelantan, Muslim women must wear a veil and non-Muslim women working in shops or restaurants must not have sexually challenging clothing. Women are in the minority both in the labor market and in politics, but among the university students they are in the majority.

Women’s trafficking and rape are common, although it is punishable even within marriage. In 2012, the Domestic Violence Act was expanded to include physical abuse in addition to physical abuse. According to women’s organizations, the main reason men are rarely convicted of these crimes is that the women who report the crimes are not supported by the police. Female genital mutilation occurs.

Trafficking in human beings, prostitution and child marriage

Human trafficking is a major problem despite the fact that Malaysia has enacted several laws to combat it. Above all, girls and women (but also boys) are picked up from Myanmar (formerly Burma) and other Asian countries to Malaysia. Some are used for prostitution, others work under difficult conditions such as maids, in agriculture, construction or in industry.

To a lesser extent, Malaysian women are taken to countries such as Singapore and the United States for sexual exploitation there. Malaysia is also a transit country for human trafficking.

Muslim girls under 16 may get married if marriage is approved by a Sharia court. However, child marriage is unusual. Abortion is illegal and performed only if the woman’s life is in danger.

The situation of LGBT people

Sexual acts between people of the same sex are illegal and can result in imprisonment for up to 20 years and / or imprisonment. The Malaysian film censorship can also prohibit homosexuals on film. LGBTQ persons may not appear in state-controlled media. The government has worked actively to dissuade youth from homosexuality through propaganda and to get parents to discover if their children are gay.

Transgender people can be sentenced to up to six months in prison for aggravated behavior. In 2014, however, three transgender women won an appeal against a law prohibiting Muslim men from wearing women’s clothing. According to the judgment, the law is “degrading, oppressive and inhuman”. There were hopes that the verdict could become a precedent in similar cases in the future.


Infant Mortality: 7 per 1000 births (2018)

Percentage of HIV infected: 0.4 percent (2018)

Proportion of HIV infected among young women

0.1 percent (2018)

Proportion of HIV infected among young men: 0.3 percent (2018)

Proportion of population with access to clean water: 96.4 percent (2015)

Proportion of the population having access to toilets: 99.6 percent (2017)

Public expenditure on health care as a percentage of GDP: 4.0 percent (2015)

Public expenditure on health care per person: US $ 362 (2016)

Proportion of women in parliament: 14 percent (2018)