Social Growth Factors in Numbers

In recent years, Penang’s robust economic performance, bolstered by immense foreign investment and its manufacturing and service sectors, is an encouraging sign for its people. The progress of the state is also marked by the advancement its people have made in improving their socio-economic status and living standards.

Income level

Penang’s median monthly household income registered an annual growth rate of 7.1%, from RM2,902 in 2007 to RM4,702 in 2014 (Figure1). Penang has also outperformed Malaysia in terms of median monthly household income from 2007-2014.

The level of growth is also reflected in the upward shift in income brackets by Penang’s households. As shown in Figure2, the percentage of households that earn a household income of RM1,999 and below has decreased from 16.1% in 2012 to 8.9% in 2014, while the percentage of households that earns a household income of RM10,000 and above has increased from 9.5% in 2012 to 12.2% in 2014. The income share of those earning RM 1,999 and below is 2% in 2014 (4.4% in 2012), while the income share of those earning RM10,000 and above is 32.3% (26% in 2012).

Additionally, the Gini coefficient gauges the level of economic inequality. In Penang, the Gini coefficient reduced considerably from 0.411 in 2007 to 0.364 in 2014, which suggests greater economic equality in recent years (Figure3). Malaysia in overall has also seen a reduction in Gini coefficient, from 0.441 in 2007 to 0.401 in 2014. Notably, Penang has a lower Gini coefficient than Malaysia, which suggests greater economic equality in Penang.

Occupations and Industry

Changes in the workforce skills spectrum are relatively modest, with the high-skilled segment expanding from 29.9% in 2011 to 32.3% in 2016 and the low-skilled segment shrinking from 39.1% in 2011 to 37.9% in 2016 (Figure4). The shift to high-skilled employment is welcomed, though it should be noted that low-skilled employment still represents the plurality. According to Table 1, the services sector still employs a majority of the workforce (57.3% in 2016), followed by the manufacturing sector (32.9% in 2016).


Table 2 shows that the proportion of primary-educated and formally uneducated reduced from 14.1% in 2011 to 9.2% in 2016. While secondary-educated employed persons represent the largest proportion of total employment, the proportion of tertiary-educated employed persons grew from 26.8% in 2011 to 32.2% in 2016. This trend coincides with the increased high-skilled segment and the shrinking low-skilled segment (Figure4).

House Ownership

The average house price has risen from RM245,591 in 2011 to RM405,195 in 2016 – a dramatic growth rate of 10.5% per annum (Figure5). A similar trend applies to Malaysia’s house price, which also illustrates an impressive growth rate of 9.7% per annum from 2011 to 2016. As Penang slowly recovered from the Great Recession (2007-2009), the number of residential property transactions increased starting in 2007 and peaked in 2011 (Figure4). As the property market boom continues, housing becomes less affordable, and the number of residential property transactions decreased from 2011 to 2016, with 2016 registering the lowest number of transactions in 10 years – merely 13,244 transactions (Figure6). Malaysia’s number of residential property transactions depicted a similar trend that illustrates general increment from 2007 to 2012 and reduction from 2013 to 2016.


Car Ownership

Table 3 indicates that more households in Penang own a car (85.4%) compared to motorcycles/scooters (77.6%) in 2014. In general, more households in Penang own cars or motorcycles/scooters than households in Malaysia. Table 3 also depicts the percentage of households owning a car and motorcycle/scooter growing considerably from 2009 to 2014 for both Penang and Malaysia. This trend of growing car ownership coincides with the stable growth of motorcycle and private car re-registration numbers in Penang and Malaysia from 2007-2014 (Figure7).



Table 4 shows the distance between living quarters and the nearest public and private health centres. Distance from healthcare centres is important because long travelling distances discourage people from accessing healthcare. In 2014 99.1% of households live less than 5km to a public health centre, compared to 87% in 2009, which suggests public health centres in Penang have become more widespread and accessible. Meanwhile, there are also more households living less than 5km to a private health centre in 2014 (97.7%) than in 2009 (83.0%).


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