Falling Malaysian Chinese population worrying: Analysts

KUALA LUMPUR • Malaysia's private sector will shrink in size, the government will collect lower tax revenues and the number of professionals will be reduced, analysts say, if Malaysian Chinese continue to emigrate.

They were responding to a report by local think-tank Asian Strategy and Leadership Institute (Asli) that said the proportion of Malaysian Chinese in the population would drop to about 19.6 per cent by 2030 with continued emigration and low birth rates, reported The Malay Mail Online (MMO) news site yesterday.

Asli chief operating officer Ng Yeen Seen said Malaysian Chinese made up 37.2 per cent of the population in 1957, when the country achieved independence.

This shrank to 24 per cent four years ago due to many Chinese leaving the country and low birth rates in the community, she said.

"If the migration trend continues to 2030, Malaysian Chinese would account for only 19.6 per cent of the population," Ms Ng predicted, as reported by the Free Malaysia Today website on Saturday.

  • 37.2%

    Proportion of Malaysian Chinese in the population in 1957


    Proportion of Malaysian Chinese in the population in 2013


    Projected proportion of Malaysian Chinese in 2030, according to statistics from Asli

She cited a 2011 World Bank study that showed that up till 2010, almost one million Malaysian Chinese had emigrated to other countries, with 57 per cent of them moving to Singapore.

Independent analyst Khoo Kay Peng told MMO: "The Chinese community is known to be very enterprising and economically vibrant. The community has been important to the nation's development. It is a worrying trend for the country."

Dr Oh Ei Sun, adjunct senior fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, said the calls for more Islamic law and practices by the majority Malays in "all aspects of social life" would likely be a push factor.

"Besides a likely decline in their political rights, the professional human resources of the whole country would similarly be decimated," Dr Oh told MMO.

Official government statistics are slightly different from the Asli figures.

The Department of Statistics estimated that the Chinese population would drop to 20 per cent by 2040 from 24.5 per cent in 2010.

It also said that the bumiputera population - Malays, Orang Asli and the ethnic tribes of Sabah and Sarawak - is expected to grow from 67.3 to 72.1 per cent between 2010 and 2040.

Centre for Policy Initiatives director Lim Teck Ghee noted the higher fertility rates of Malaysian Malays and the influx of Muslim immigrants who are given citizenship. Most Muslim migrant workers are from Indonesia and southern Philippines.

Mr Ibrahim Suffian, director of independent pollster Merdeka Centre, said the minorities ultimately need to figure out how to work with the majority population.

"Muslims in Malaysia are not monolithic; they ascribe to many different political ideas," he told MMO.

"Muslims need to realise that non-Muslims are their fellow countrymen with whom they have a shared stake in the country's continued peace and prosperity."

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 24, 2017, with the headline Falling Malaysian Chinese population worrying: Analysts. Subscribe