Malaysia's People
Malaysia :: People

The largest ethnic groups in Malaysia are the Malays, Chinese and Indians. In Sabah and Sarawak, there are a myriad of indigenous ethnic groups with their own unique culture and heritage.

Ethnic Malays and other indigenous ethnic groups are known as bumiputra or bumiputera (pronounced boo-mih-poo-TRAH) which translated literally means "sons of the Earth" (Sanskrit) or "princes of the Earth" (Malay).

Population: 24.8 million (July 2007 est.)
0-14 years: 32.2% (male 4.1 million; female 3.9 million)

Population distribution
Peninsular Malaysia: 80%
East Malaysia: 20%
More than half of all the people live in cities and towns and the other half in kampongs (villages) in the countryside. In the old days, kampong houses were made of wood with thatched roofing called atap, made from leaves of coconut trees or nipa palm; they were built on stilts for protection against floodwaters. Today, many new houses are made of concrete. Every kampong has its own mosque.
Ethnic groups:
Malay 50.4%,
Chinese 23.7%,
Indigenous (natives) 11%
  1. Orang Asli (general term used for Negrito, Senoi and Proto-Malay) in Peninsular Malaysia
  2. Dayaks (collective term used for Iban, Bidayuh and Orang Ulu) in Sarawak
  3. Kadazan-Dusun, Bajau and Murut are the largest indigenous groups in Sabah
Indian 7.1%,
Others 7.8% (2004 est.)

Muslim 60.4%,
Buddhist 19.2%,
Christian 9.1%,
Hindu 6.3%,
Confucianism, Taoism, other traditional Chinese religions 2.6%,
Others or unknown 1.5%,
None 0.8% (2000 census)

Bahasa Melayu/Malay (official),
English (widely used in business and everyday life),
Chinese (Cantonese, Mandarin, Hokkien, Hakka, Hainan, Foochow),
Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Panjabi, Thai

Note: in East Malaysia there are several indigenous (native) languages; most widely spoken are Iban and Kadazan

Literacy rate: 88.7% (of those age 15 and above) can read and write (2000 census)