Census 2020:

M’sia heading towards an ageing society

Ooi Choon Nam


Malaysia has more senior citizens, a lower growth rate and smaller household size. The male population continues to outnumber females.

The National Census 2020 revealed that the population percentage of senior citizens aged 65 and above has increased significantly in the past two decades.

It now stands at 6.8 percent or 2.2 million in 2020 compared to 3.9 percent in 2000.

According to the United Nations standards, a country or region is defined as an ageing society if those aged 65 and above are between seven and 14 percent of the entire population.

Therefore, Malaysia is on the cusp of becoming an ageing society.


Four ageing states in Malaysia

At the state and federal territories level, four were considered ageing states with the percentage of senior citizens aged 65 and above exceeding seven percent of the local population.

Perak topped the list with 8.95 percent, followed by Kedah (7.91 percent), Perlis (7.86 percent) and Sarawak (7.53 percent).

Putrajaya, on the other hand, is the “youngest” with 1.41 percent of senior citizens aged 65 and above. The second is Labuan (4.2 percent).


Growth rate declined to 1.7 percent

The situation is in line with the decline in the growth rate. Malaysia's population grew at a slower rate of 1.7 percent a year from 2010 to 2020 compared to 2.2 percent a year between 2000 and 2010.

Most of the states recorded lower growth rates over the last decade compared to between 2000 and 2010. Perlis, Kelantan, Negeri Sembilan, Kuala Lumpur and Johor, however, recorded a higher growth rate.

Three states registered an average population growth rate of below one percent over the last decade, namely Sarawak 0.2 percent, Perak 0.8 percent and Sabah 0.9 percent.

The highest annual growth rate from 2010 to 2020 was in Putrajaya at 4.8 percent and Selangor (2.7 percent).


Average household size decreases

With the fertility rate declining, the average household size decreased from 4.3 to 3.9 over the last decade.

In 2020, Kelantan recorded the highest average household size with 4.9 persons per household followed by Sabah (4.7 persons) and Terengganu (4.1 persons). Meanwhile, Kuala Lumpur recorded the lowest at 3.5 persons.


Nine million in Klang Valley

Malaysia’s total population was 32.4 million in 2020 compared to 27.5 million in 2010. Of the 2020 population figure, 9.1 million were in Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya.

Selangor recorded the highest population with 6.9 million, followed by Johor (4 million) and Sabah (3.4 million). Meanwhile, the lowest population was recorded in Labuan, which amounted to 95.1 thousand followed by Putrajaya 109 thousand.

The population in four administrative districts exceeded one million, namely Petaling (2.3 million), Ulu Langat (1.4 million), and Klang (1.1 million persons) in Selangor and Johor Bahru (1.7 million).


Penang has more Chinese than Malays

The percentage of bumiputera increased to 69.4 percent in 2020 compared to 55.8 percent in 1970. The composition of Chinese Malaysians decreased to 23.2 percent from 34.1 percent in the same period while Indian Malaysians decreased from nine percent to 6.7 percent.

According to the 2020 data, bumiputera was the main ethnic group in all states except Penang. Ethnic Chinese amounted to 44.9 percent in Penang while bumiputera 44.7 percent.

Those with the highest number of bumiputera were Putrajaya (97.9 percent), Terengganu (97.6 percent) and Kelantan (96.6 percent).

Apart from Penang, the second highest with regard to Chinese composition was Kuala Lumpur (41.6 percent), followed by Johor (32.8 percent).

The composition of Indians was the highest in Negeri Sembilan (14.3 percent), Perak (11.5 percent) and Selangor (11.3 percent).


The ratio of males to females keeps increasing

As for the gender breakdown, Malaysia's population, as of 2020, consisted of 17 million males compared to 15.5 million females. The sex ratio had increased to 110 males for every 100 females in 2020 as compared to 106 in 2010.

The ratio of males to females was relatively high for most states such as Kuala Lumpur (115), Johor (115) and Selangor (113) while Putrajaya was the only state where males were outnumbered by females, which is 96 males for every 100 females.

In 2020, those who never married was 34 percent out of the 24.7 million population aged 15 and above. Those married was 55.5 percent, those whose spouses had died (3.8 percent) and divorced/ separated (1.6 percent). The remaining 5.1 percent was classified as unknown but no explanation was given.

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Published by Kini News Lab on Mar 23, 2021.

Project coordinator
Lee Long Hui
Researcher & Writer
Ooi Choon Nam
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Yan Jing Tian, Ooi Choon Nam & Lee Long Hui
Yan Jing Tian
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