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Malaysia, The People of Malaysia

In 1991 Malaysia’s total population was 17,566,982. The country’s estimated 2002 population was 22,662,365, yielding an overall population density of 69 persons per sq km (178 per sq mi). The population is unevenly distributed, however, and West Malaysia is about seven times more densely populated than East Malaysia. Some 57 percent of Malaysia’s population is urban; like most developing nations, Malaysia has experienced high rural-to-urban migration rates since the 1950s. Urban unemployment is very low in Malaysia, and this contributes to the growth. The labor shortage for low-skill jobs attracts many immigrants, particularly from Indonesia, the Philippines, Pakistan, and Bangladesh. In addition to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s large cities include Ipoh, Johor Baharu, Petaling Jaya, Kelang, Kuala Terengganu, and George Town (formerly Pinang). Kuala Lumpur, Petaling Jaya, and Kelang are part of the Kelang Valley conurbation, Malaysia’s largest urban region. A new center of government administrative offices, Putrajaya, is being constructed about 40 km (about 25 mi) south of Kuala Lumpur; it will be part of the greater Kuala Lumpur metropolitan area when completed in the early 21st century. Nearly one-half of Kuala Lumpur’s metropolitan area population resides in the surrounding state of Selangor, where Petaling Jaya, Kelang, and Shah Alam are located. Between 1980 and 1991 Selangor grew by 60.5 percent, compared with only 27.8 percent for Kuala Lumpur and about 26 percent for the nation as a whole. Only one state, Sabah, had a higher growth rate (87 percent) during the same period. Johor Baharu, located across from Singapore at the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, is also growing rapidly. George Town, a major seaport and tourist destination, is on the island of Pinang.

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