Malaysia Geography and Population

By | January 8, 2023

Malaysia – geography

There are major differences between Western Malaysia and the states of Sarawak and Sabah on Borneo. The economic and political center of gravity lies around the rapidly growing capital, Kuala Lumpur, located on the southern part of the peninsula, while the eastern states have a more peripheral importance.


Over 4/5 of the population lives in the rather densely populated West Malaysia, while Sabah and Sarawak in particular, is sparsely populated. The population is ethnically composed. 50% of the country’s residents are Malays. They live predominantly in Western Malaysia, speak the country’s official language, bahasa malaysia, and follow the state religion Islam. The Malays are traditionally farmers and live in towns, kampong, where the houses are built on stilts; with the rapid industrialization in large numbers they have moved to the big cities. Ethnic Chinese accounts for a good 23%. They are descended from immigrants who came to the area around 1900, primarily to work in the tin mines. Many eventually became merchants, and in the past, retail in the country was in Chinese hands. The immigration took place from different southern Chinese provinces, each with its own characteristic dialect; only 9% are now stated to speak Chinese. The Indian minority makes up 7% and consists mainly of Tamils, descendants of the workers that the British introduced to the coffee and rubber plantations. In Western Malaysia there are approximately 60,000 of the indigenous population, orang asli. In eastern Malaysia there are fewer Indians, but here there are more indigenous tribes; iban is the largest (3%). They are known as former headhunters and for their longhouses. Many still live assweat users. Other notable groups are bidayuh in Sarawak as well as bajau, murut and dusun, mainly in Sabah.

  • Countryaah: Do you know how many people there are in Malaysia? Check this site to see population pyramid and resident density about this country.


Like the population composition, the landscape and the production also reflect the country’s historical role as a supplier to the world market of a number of important raw materials. With the islands’ increased urbanization in the 1900’s. grew the need for tin for the canned products of the food industries. British Malaya housed large, easily accessible deposits on the Malacca Peninsula (see Kinta), and the country quickly became the world’s largest tin exporter. Now the easily accessible deposits in the state of Perak have been exhausted, and under competition from other countries with lower extraction costs, Malaysian tin production in the 1990’s is only of marginal importance.

States and territories
states capital city residents (1000) area (km2)
Western Malaysia
Johor Johor Baharu 2107 18986
Kedah Alor Setar 1412 9426
Kelantan Kota Baharu 1221 14943
Melaka Melaka 583 1650
Negeri Sembilan Seremban 724 6643
Pahang Kuantan 1056 35965
Penang George Town 1141 1031
Perak Ipoh 2222 21005
Perlis Kangar 187 795
Selangor Shah Alam 1981 7956
Terengganu Kuala Terengganu 752 12955
Eastern Malaysia
Sabah Kota Kinabalu 1737 73711
Sarawak Kuching 1648 124449
federal territories
Kuala Lumpur Kuala Lumpur 1231 243
Labuan Labuan 54 91

The cultivation of rubber trees began in earnest when car production gained momentum in the early 1900’s. Brazil had long had a monopoly on the world rubber market, but the British managed to smuggle seeds out of the rubber tree and propagate them. British coffee farmers from Ceylon (Sri Lanka) had unsuccessfully established plantations in Malaya, and many of the plantations were instead planted with rubber trees, which proved to be extremely profitable. Malay peasants also planted rubber trees as cash crops, and up to the early 1990’s, Malaysia was the world’s leading producer and exporter of natural rubber. Since then, other countries in the region (Thailand and Indonesia) have taken over the leadership role. The original core area for rubber production was the well-developed tin area in terms of transport, but with the railway to Singapore (completed in 1919), the plantations spread south to the state of Johor.

As the production of synthetic rubber products took off in earnest in the 1960’s, raw rubber weakened in the world market, and extensive felling of rubber trees and planting of oil palms laid the groundwork for Malaysia’s third major commodity export, palm oil. Palm oil is the most important of the vegetable oils traded internationally and Malaysia is the world’s largest exporter. The oil palm plantations now cover DKK 2 million. ha, and palm oilis the most important product of agriculture in terms of area and export value. An important factor in the development has been a state resettlement program, administered by the FELDA (Federal Land Development Authority). Through this, 120,000 families have been settled and employed in oil palm plantations, not only in the traditional plantation areas of Western Malaysia, but also in Sabah. A derivative effect has been that the traditional rice production has declined despite modernization of cultivation and productivity growth. In the past, self-sufficiency in rice was a political priority, but now a lot of rice is imported from the economic partners of ASEAN. However, rice cultivation remains important in the old rice areas to the NE and NW of Western Malaysia.

Inclusion of new agricultural land has increased the already significant timber production. Afforestation of valuable timber in tropical rainforests is facing increasing international criticism, but raw wood and sawn timber remain important commodities in exports.

Since the mid-1970’s, Malaysia has also had a growing production and export of mineral oil. The oil fields are located offshore east of the Malacca Peninsula and north of Sarawak and Sabah. Natural gas production has grown faster in the same period and is now on a par with oil production. Most are exported in liquid form (LNG) to Japan. As recently as the 1960’s, raw materials accounted for over 90% of Malaysia’s exports. With the rapid industrial growth, the share has fallen to below 10%.

Industry.By independence in 1963, Malaysia’s industry was completely oriented towards the domestic market. Since the 1970’s, the industry has become very versatile and the growth industries are export-oriented. This is partly due to the fact that tax benefits and government subsidies are given to both locally and foreign-owned export industries. Foreign companies, especially in the electronics industry, have taken advantage of these advantages and employ the still relatively cheap Malaysian labor in the labor-intensive parts of their business. Thus, a significant part of the worldwide electronics assembly now takes place in Malaysia; Among other things, radios, televisions, VCRs and computers. Other industries have also grown significantly, including the textile, metal and chemical industries. The strong growth in the 1990’s has led to a shortage of labor, especially on technicians and skilled workers, but also on unskilled workers. The large emigration from the agricultural areas and an increased effort within the vocational educations have not been enough. However, a massive but illegal immigration from Indonesia has covered the need for unskilled people in construction and on the oil plantations.

Much of modern industry is located in special industrial zones, some of them free zones with particularly favorable conditions for investors. Most are located in western Malaysia and near the major growth centers: Kuala Lumpur, Johor Baharu opposite Singapore and George Town in the northern state of Penang.

Natural conditions

The Malacca Peninsula is characterized by north-south mountain ranges with low-lying coastal plains on both sides. In the central and northern part of the peninsula there are also isolated limestone massifs. Sarawak and Sabah have wide coastal plains towards the NW, which gradually turn into a hilly and ravine landscape and further towards the SE in actual mountain areas on the border with Indonesia. Malaysia’s highest mountain, Kinabalu (4102 m), is located in the northeastern part of the area. Everywhere there are many rivers; especially in Borneo, they have been of great importance for transport and for settlements inland.

Both Western and Eastern Malaysia have humid tropical climates, and tropical rainforest is the natural vegetation everywhere. Much of the forest has been felled, but still over half of the area is forested, by far most in Sarawak; part is secondary forest in swampy areas. The annual rainfall is large everywhere, but varies greatly. Sarawak’s coastal and mountainous regions receive the most rain during the northeast monsoon, which blows from October to March.

The wildlife is rich in species with elephants, rhinos, tigers, leopards, orangutans and a host of bird species. With the continued felling of large rainforest areas, several species of both animals and plants are endangered. Based on both international and local environmental awareness, several areas have been protected; this also applies to coastal areas with a rich marine life.

Malaysia – language

Numerous different languages ​​are spoken in Malaysia and most of the residents are bilingual or even trilingual. The official language is Malay, called bahasa malaysia. Malay, which is a West Austronesian language, is written in an official context with Latin letters, but in a religious context with Arabic letters. Nearly half of the population has Malay as their mother tongue; of the numerous other indigenous languages, most are also Austronesian; many of these are spoken by very small sections of the population. A few tribal people on the Malacca Peninsula speak Austro-Asian languages. In the border area of Thailand is also spoken thai. In addition, there are a number of immigrant languages, especially Chinese and Indian languages, as well as some Creole and Pidgin languages. For culture and traditions of Malaysia, please check animalerts.

Malaysia – religion

Islam came in the late 1300’s. to the Malacca Peninsula, which became an important Islamic center; Islam remains the most important religion among the Malays. It is a state religion, but anyone can freely practice their faith. The Malays follow the rules of Islam, but there are elements of earlier religion, partly Hinduism, partly older religion in certain rituals. In recent times, movements have emerged for a renewal of Islam; some want to purify Islam of non-Islamic traits, while others work to create an Islamic state. Malaysia’s Chinese population professes a mixture of Buddhism, Confucianism and Daoism, while most Indians are Hindus.

Malaysia Geography