Southeast Asia


33,519,406 (July 2021 est.) As of July 2020, the Department of Statistics Malaysia (DOSM) estimates the population of Malaysia to be 32.7 million with an annual growth rate of 0.4% since 2019.


Malaysia is a federation of 13 states and three federal territories in Southeast Asia. It consists of two regions separated by the South China Sea and is bordered by Brunei, Indonesia, and Thailand. Malaysia has a strategic location along the Strait of Malacca and the southern South China Sea. The government system is a constitutional monarchy; the chief of state is the king, and the head of government is the prime minister. Malaysia has a mixed economic system which includes a variety of private freedom, combined with centralized economic planning and government regulation. Malaysia is a member of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), and the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Since its independence in 1957, the landscape of the Malaysian economy has evolved and successfully diversified from one which was initially agriculture and commodity-based to a predominantly manufacturing and services sector.

In 1970, the Malaysian Government initiated the New Economic Policy (NEP) which aimed to eradicate poverty and correct racial economic imbalance by introducing new portions for capital ownership structures among the indigenous population (Bumiputeras), non-Bumiputeras and foreign interests. On expiry of the NEP in 1990, the National Development Policy (NDP) was introduced which became the guiding framework for the country’s economic policy between 1991 and 2000. While still holding the NEP’s twin objectives of poverty eradication and ethnic redistribution of wealth, the NDP places greater emphasis on redistribution through rapid growth.

In 2020, the Malaysian Government introduced the Malaysia Digital Economy Blueprint (Blueprint) and established MyDIGITAL, demonstrating the government aspirations to successfully transform Malaysia into a digitally-driven, high income nation and a regional leader in the digital economy.
The Economic Planning Unit of the Prime Minister’s Department (EPU) is the principal agency responsible for overseeing the development plans for Malaysia. The EPU is tasked with managing the country’s socio-economic development in a strategic and sustainable manner. Its core functions include planning, resource allocation, monitoring and stakeholder facilitation.

Dominant Industries

The primary sectors in Malaysia are manufacturing and services, and the Malaysian Investment Development Authority (MIDA) has identified the following areas to be the dominant industries and sub-sectors:

Manufacturing sector:

  • building technology;
  • chemical and advanced materials;
  • electrical and electronics;
  • food technology;
  • textile and apparels;
  • life sciences and medical technology;
  • machinery and metals;
  • paper, printing and publishing;
  • transport technology; and
  • wood-based and furniture.

Services sector:

  • business services;
  • education services;
  • green technology;
  • healthcare services;
  • hospitality (hotels and tourism);
  • logistics services;
  • oil and gas;
  • regional establishment; and
  • research and development (R&D).

Trade sector:

  • Malaysia is also a major exporter of commodities such as natural rubber and palm oil. In 2020, the Malaysian Department of Statistics recorded total export earnings of MYR980.98 billion accumulated from the following industries:
  • electrical and electronic products;
  • petroleum products;
  • chemicals and chemical products;
  • palm oil;
  • rubber products;
  • optical and scientific;
  • machinery, equipment and parts
  • metal manufacturers
  • LNG; and
  • iron and steel products.

Agriculture sector:

  • Further, Malaysia also has a wide agriculture sector which contributed to 7.1% (MYR101.5 billion) of its GDP in 2019. Amongst the largest contributories include sectors such as oil palm, livestock, fishing, forestry and logging and rubber.


Average connection speed (Mbit/s) – 11
Broadband average connection speed (Mbit/s)- 103.34
Median 5G connection speed (Mbit/s)- 4.02


All power sockets in Malaysia provide a standard voltage of 240V with a standard frequency of 50Hz


$26,400 note: data are in 2017 dollars (2020 est.)
$28,400 note: data are in 2017 dollars (2019 est.)
$27,600 note: data are in 2017 dollars (2018 est.)

note: data are in 2010 dollars


tropical; annual southwest (April to October) and northeast (October to February) monsoons


Malaysia My Second Home Program

The Malaysia My Second Home Program, started in 2002, allows foreign nationals who fulfill certain criteria to stay in Malaysia on a multiple-entry social visit pass.


  • A bank deposit of MYR 300,000 (approximately USD 68,000) for applicants below 50, or MYR 150,000 (approximately USD 34,000) for applicants above 50 years old


Requirements upon application

Applicants are required to demonstrate the capability to support themselves financially in Malaysia without seeking employment or government assistance. The financial requirements are as follows:

For applicants below the age of 50:

  • Proof of bankable assets of at least MYR 500,000 (approximately USD 114,000)
  • Proof of income of at least MYR 10,000 (approximately USD 2,300) per month

For applicants 50 years old and older:

  • Proof of bankable assets of at least MYR 350,000 (approximately USD 80,000)
  • Proof of income of at least MYR 10,000 (approximately USD 2,300) per month

Requirements upon approval

  • Once an applicant receives a conditional approval letter, they must meet the following requirements:

For applicants below the age of 50:

  • A bank account must be opened with a deposit of at least MYR 300,000 (approximately USD 68,000)
  • After a period of one year, up to MYR 150,000 (approximately USD 34,000) may be withdrawn for approved expenses
  • MYR 150,000 (approximately USD 34,000)

For applicants 50 years old and older:

  • A bank account must be opened with a deposit of at least MYR 150,000 (approximately USD 34,000)
  • After a period of one year, up to MYR 50,000 (approximately USD 11,500) may be withdrawn for approved expenses relating to a house purchase, the education of children in Malaysia or medical purposes.
  • A minimum balance of MYR 100,000 (USD 25,000) must be maintained from the second year onwards and throughout the stay in Malaysia under the program.


  • A 10-year visa that enables the applicant and their family to live in Malaysia
  • No minimum stay requirement
  • An extensive network of double tax agreements, meaning residents may be able to claim a tax refund on foreign income taxed in overseas countries
  • A multicultural population


  • The average time is 3 to 6 months.


tin, petroleum, timber, copper, iron ore, natural gas, bauxite


Bumiputera 62.5% (Malays and indigenous peoples, including Orang Asli, Dayak, Anak Negeri), Chinese 20.6%, Indian 6.2%, other 0.9%, non-citizens 9.8% (2019 est.)


Bahasa Malaysia (official), English, Chinese (Cantonese, Mandarin, Hokkien, Hakka, Hainan, Foochow), Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Panjabi, Thai; note – Malaysia has 134 living languages – 112 indigenous languages and 22 non-indigenous languages; in East Malaysia, there are several indigenous languages; the most widely spoken are Iban and Kadazan


Muslim (official) 61.3%, Buddhist 19.8%, Christian 9.2%, Hindu 6.3%, Confucianism, Taoism, other traditional Chinese religions 1.3%, other 0.4%, none 0.8%, unspecified 1% (2010 est.)


total: 29.2 years
male: 28.9 years
female: 29.6 years (2020 est.)


urban population: 77.7 % of total population (2021)
rate of urbanization: 1.87% annual rate of change (2020-25 est.)
total population growth rate v. urban population growth rate, 2000-2030


1.54 physicians/1,000 population (2017)


federal parliamentary constitutional monarchy


3.3% (2019 est.)
3.33% (2018 est.)


Personal Income Tax Rate (highest marginal tax rate) – A graduated scale of rates of tax is applied to chargeable income of resident individual taxpayers, starting from 0% (on the first RM5,000) to a maximum of 30% on chargeable income exceeding RM2,000,000 with effect from YA 2020.

Non-resident individuals pay tax at a flat rate of 30% with effect from YA 2020. Other rates are applicable to special classes of income, e.g. interest or royalties.

Corporate Income Tax Rate (excluding dividend taxes) – YA 2021 and YA 2020

Resident company with paid up capital of RM2.5 million and below at the beginning of the basis period (SME) (Note 1); and Company having gross business income from one or more sources for the relevant year of assessment of not more than RM50 million

  • On first RM600,000 chargeable income – 17%
  • On subsequent chargeable income – 24%

Resident company with paid up capital above RM2.5 million at the beginning of the basis period – 24%

Non-resident company/ branch – 24%

The taxation system in Malaysia is territorial in nature. All income accrued in, derived from or received in Malaysia from outside of Malaysia, is liable to income tax. However, foreign sourced income received in Malaysia from outside Malaysia by any person (other than a resident company carrying on banking, insurance, air or sea transportation business that is taxed on world-income basis) is exempted from income tax in Malaysia. The Malaysian tax regime comprises direct and indirect taxes. The direct taxes are income tax, real property gains tax, petroleum income tax and stamp duty.

Foreign tax relief

A tax resident is entitled to claim foreign tax credits against Malaysian tax. Where a treaty exists, the credit available is the whole of the foreign tax paid or the Malaysian tax levied, whichever is lower. In the absence of a tax treaty, the credit available is restricted to half of the foreign tax paid.

Malaysia has entered into over 80 double tax treaties, of which 74 are in force, including with China, Japan, the UK, many EU countries and the US (although the US double tax treaty has limited provisions). A full list of the countries that have entered into double taxation agreements with Malaysia can be found on the Inland Revenue Board website (

Table of Contents: MALAYSIA

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