This article provides an overview of Malaysia for those keen on exploring the possibility of living and working there. The information presented is gathered from open sources and is not exhaustive or meant to supplement or substitute legal and professional advice.
- Capital: Kuala Lumpur
- Geography: 13 states and 3 federal territories
- Land area: 330,524 sq km
- Population (2020): 32.7 million
- Head of government: Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Ismail Sabri bin Yaakob
- National language: Bahasa Malaysia
- Currency: Malaysian Ringgit (MYR)
- GDP (2019): MYR1,510.7 billion
- GDP per capita (2019): MYR46,450
Malaysia comprises two regions: the Peninsular Malaysia and the states of Sabah and Sarawak. It is a multi-ethnic and multi-religious federation of 13 states and three federal territories. The states of East Malaysia (Sabah and Sarawak) have separate immigration policies and controls.
In 2020, the population in Malaysia is estimated at 32.7 million, with 29.7 million citizens and 2.96 million non-citizens. The population grew 0.4 percent, an increase from the 32.5 million recorded in 2019. The population of males outnumbers that of females: in 2020, the gender ratio is 1.06 male to one female. The Malaysian population comprises many ethnic groups. In 2020, more than 69 percent of the population were Bumiputera, which included Malays, Orang Asli, and Sabah and Sarawak natives.
Malaysia’s economy grew at a moderate rate of 4.3 percent in 2019, attaining a gross domestic product (GDP) of MYR1,510.7 billion. Growth was led by the services sector, which contributed to 57.7 percent to GDP, followed by the manufacturing (22.3 percent) and agriculture sectors (8.2 percent). The country’s GDP per capita rose from MYR44,682in 2018 to MYR46,450 in 2019.
Malaysia’s services industry grew by 6.1 percent from the previous year in 2018, led by wholesale and retail trade and information and communication sub-sectors.
The manufacturing industry became a significant contributor to the country’s economy in the post-independence period beginning in the 1960s. In 2019, the manufacturing industry recorded a 3.8 percent growth. Leading Malaysia’s manufacturing industry is the electrical, electronic and optical products sector.
The agriculture sector is another important sector in Malaysia’s economic development. It provides rural employment, uplift rural incomes and ensure national food security. In 2019, the agriculture industry expanded two percent and contributed 7.1 percent to the country’s GDP. The growth is influenced by the oil palm, livestock and other agriculture sub-sectors. Some of Malaysia’s agricultural products are palm oil, rice and rubber.
Malaysia’s attractions include towering skyscrapers, rugged mountains, sandy beaches and cool highland hideaways. The Petronas Twin Towers, also known as KLCC, is an iconic 88-storey twin building located in the capital Kuala Lumpur and is a popular tourist photography spot. Mount Kinabalu, located in Sabah, is the highest mountain in Southeast Asia, standing at 4,095 metres and well-known for its botanical and biological species biodiversity. Malaysia is also home to many beautiful islands such as Pulau Tioman and Pulau Sipadan, which are popular among snorkelers and divers. Its diverse culture also makes the country a “gastronomical paradise” which attracts visitors.
In 2019, tourism brought 26.1 million international tourist arrivals who contributed MYR240.2 billion (or 15.9 percent) to the country’s GDP. Tourist arrivals in 2019 were dominated by visitors from Singapore with 10.16 million arrivals, followed by Indonesia (3.62 million arrivals) and China (3.11 million arrivals).