East Malaysia in numbers

With consciousness of East Malaysia being heightened, especially post GE-13, we explore its demographics, along with its economic contribution and literacy rates.

Demographic overview

Bumiputera includes Malay, Iban, Bidayuh, Kadazan Dusun, Bajau and other Orang Asli. Non-Malay Bumiputeras make up close to 60% of Sarawak’s population and more than 70% of Sabah’s, with the majorities being the Iban (30% of Sarawak’s population) and the Kadazan Dusun (23% of Sabah’s population).

The representation of various religions is different across Malaysia – while Muslims form the majority of worshippers in Peninsular Malaysia, Christians make up the majority in Sarawak. Christianity also has a substantial presence in Sabah, at more than 30% of the state’s population.

Economic contribution and potential

In the oil and gas industry, deep water projects drill at depths of more than 1,000ft to harness the remaining pockets of oil and natural gas. These projects are costly and require high technical expertise, but serve to mitigate depleting energy sources around the world.

In Sabah, the Kebabangan Northern Hub development project (KBB) will tie together with the Kikeh, Gumusut/Kakap and Malikai oil fields to act as the centre for the development of deep water oil and gas assets in offshore Sabah. The KBB platform has a design capacity of 825 MMcf/d of natural gas and 25,000 bbl/d of condensate1.

In 2012, Malaysia was the world's second largest exporter of liquefied natural gas after Qatar, with more than half of its natural gas reserves found in East Malaysia, predominantly offshore Sarawak. According to the US Energy Information Administration, Sarawak and Sabah have an increasing amount of non-associated gas reserves that offset some of the declines from mature oil and gas basins in offshore Peninsular Malaysia.

KL had the highest GDP per capita in 2012 at RM73,931, 130% more than the national average. The next highest was Sarawak, generating a GDP per capita of RM40,414. Sabah is among the Malaysian states that had GDP per capita between RM10,000 and RM20,000. Sarawak’s GDP per capita was 26% higher than the national average whereas Sabah’s GDP per capita was 41% lower than the national average.

Sarawak has a more developed manufacturing industry, which is five times the size of Sabah’s as of 2012. This could be a sign that Sarawak has more planned development in place, which could accommodate industrial needs relative to Sabah.

Literacy rates

Malaysia achieved a literacy rate of more than 97% in 2010. However, Sarawak, Sabah, Kelantan, Perak and Pahang had literacy rates lower than that of the national average.

As for computer literacy rates, Sarawak and Sabah were in the bottom three positions compared with other states in 2010. The national average was at 61.1% while Sarawak’s was at 47.5% and Sabah’s was at 52.1%. Limited computer literacy makes information which is available to Peninsular Malaysians less accessible to certain Sabahans and Sarawakians.

1 US Energy Information Agency, September 2013.

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