Last week, the Department of Statistics released its projection of Malaysian population in 2040. The Department projects that there will be 39 million persons living in Malaysia by 2040, of which 93% of them will be Malaysians. In 2010, there were 29 million persons living in the country with 92% of them being Malaysians. The median age is projected to be about 10 years older than what it is right now. In 2010, the median was 26 years old.
The projection has two population booms in it (possibly three; whether the third is part of the second or distinct by itself is up for debate). The first is the current generation either in universities or has just entered the labor market. The next boom is expected to happen between the next five and ten years or so as the earlier boomers start their own families and do what rabbits do (chart from the Department of Statistics):
If the assumptions of the projection are taken to heart, Malaysia’s economic growth from now till 2040 might set to be strong if nothing disastrous like wars or institutional degradation happens. Growth may begin to slow down 20 years later in 2060 when the first Malaysian baby boomers enter retirement. The real demographic trouble may start in 2080 when the second boomers enter retirement.
The projection states that the Malaysian society will become an aging society by 2021 but this is merely definitional problem as the projected median age in 2021 is around 30 years old. That age is still well inside the productive age, and probably close to the optimal age/experience to productivity, wherever that point is.
It is possible that the second boomers may bring about a third boomers (there is a third local peak for 5-9 cohorts in 2040) but the fertility rate is projected to be pretty low by the time the second boomers reach their 20s, which is expected to happen in 2040s. Fertility rate in 2040 Malaysia is expected to match that of an advanced country.
The Malays and the other Bumiputras are expected to experience an annual population growth rate of less than one. The Chinese and Indians lose interest in making babies and only the mysterious “Others” will have an amazing rabbit-like rate of 2%.
So, it appears, 40 million to 50 million (or 60 million but anything above 60 million sounds like a very unlikely scenario) people may be the maximum number for Malaysia in this century.
The projection however may be conservative. The growth rate of non-citizens is low and given how ASEAN is set to integrate even further and on top of that, more globalization, one would expect more non-citizens.
But anyway, based on the population projection by the Department of Statistics, the population dividend Malaysia is enjoying is set to last for a very long time. It will probably outlast my generation, which is part of the first boom.