Monday, July 13, 2009

Demographics

2:02 AM

Malaysia's population comprises many ethnic groups, with the Malays at 50.4% making up the majority and other bumiputra/indigenous (Aborigine) groups in Sabah and Sarawak at 11%[61] of the population. By constitutional definition, Malays are Muslims who practice Malay customs (adat) and culture. Therefore, technically, a Muslim of any race who practices Malay customs and culture can be considered a Malay and have equal rights when it comes to Malay rights as stated in the constitution. Non-Malay bumiputra groups make up more than half of the state of Sarawak's population (of which 30% are Ibans), and close to 60% of Sabah's population (of which 18% are Kadazan-Dusuns, and 17% are Bajaus).[61] There also exist aboriginal groups in much smaller numbers on the Peninsula, where they are collectively known as Orang Asli.

23.7% of the population are Malaysians of Chinese descent, while Malaysians of Indian descent comprise 7.1% of the population.[61] The majority of the Indian community are Tamils but various other groups are also present, including Malayalis, Punjabis and Gujaratis. Other Malaysians also include those whose origin, inter alia, can be traced to the Middle East, Thailand and Indonesia. Europeans and Eurasians include British who settled in Malaysia since colonial times, and a strong Kristang community in Malacca. A small number of Cambodians and Vietnamese settled in Malaysia as Vietnam War refugees.

The population distribution is highly uneven, with some 20 million residents concentrated on the Malay Peninsula, while East Malaysia is relatively less populated. Due to the rise in labour intensive industries, Malaysia has 10 to 20% foreign workers with the uncertainty due in part to the large number of illegal workers. There are a million legal foreign workers and perhaps another million unauthorised foreigners. The state of Sabah alone has nearly 25% of its 2.7 million population listed as illegal foreign workers in the last census. However, this figure of 25% is thought to be less than half the figure speculated by NGOs.[62]

Additionally, according to the World Refugee Survey 2008, published by the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, Malaysia hosts a population of refugees and asylum seekers numbering approximately 155,700. Of this population, approximately 70,500 refugees and asylum seekers are from the Philippines, 69,700 from Burma, and 21,800 from Indonesia.[63] The U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants named Malaysia as one of the Ten Worst Places for Refugees on account of the country's discriminatory practices toward refugees. Malaysian officials are reported to have turned deportees directly over to human smugglers in 2007, and Malaysia employs the RELA, a volunteer militia, to enforce its immigration law.[63]

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