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Consumer Profile
Malaysia has a population of 33.87 million people (2022 est.) growing at a 1.03% rate (CIA World Factbook). The median age in Malaysia is 31 years (Data Reportal, 2022); 26.8% of the population is 14 years old or younger, 16.63% is between 15 and 24 years old, 40.86% is between 25 and 54 years old, 8.81% is between 55 and 64 years while 6.9% of the population is 65 or older (CIA World Factbook). The official religion of the state is Islam: while 61.3% of the population is Muslim, 19.8% of the population is Buddhist, 9.2% is Christian, 6.3% is Hindu and the 1.3% of the population practises traditional Chinese religions (CIA World Factbook). In terms of gender, in 2021 the male population stood at 16.8 million, while the female population was at 15.9 million in Malaysia (Department of Statistics). The sex ratio is 105 males per 100 females in the country.

According to the World Bank, 10% of the labour force works in agriculture, 27% in industry and 63% in services (2020, latest data available). The average household size is 4.6 people; 7% of the household count 1 person, 26% of the household count 2 or 3 people, 38% of the household count 4 or 5 people, and 29% of the household count 6 people or more (UN, latest data available).
Some 78.2% of the population live in urban areas, with an urbanisation rate of 1.87% annually. There is a highly uneven distribution of population in Malaysia, with over 80% of the population residing on the Malay Peninsula. The capital city, Kuala Lumpur counts 8.42 million people, Johor Bahru has 1.065 million inhabitants and Ipoh has around 842,000 inhabitants (CIA World Factbook, 2022).

People over 15 who can read and write represent 95% of the overall population (CIA World Factbook). Education may be obtained from the multilingual public school system, which provides free education for all Malaysians, or private schools, or through homeschooling. International and private institutions charge school fees. By law, primary education is compulsory.

Purchasing Power

The Malaysian GDP per capita (purchasing power parity) is USD 29,617.3 (World Bank, 2021). The Gini coefficient stood at 0.407 in 2019, up from 0.399 in 2016 (Household Income & Basic Amenities Survey Report 2019, latest data available). According to figures from the national Department of Statistics, due to the Covid-19 pandemic the median household income decreased by 11.3% in 2020 compared to 2019, and stood at MYR 5,209. The median household income in urban areas is around 1.7 times higher than in rural areas. At state level, in 2020 W.P. Putrajaya recorded the highest median income with MYR 9,743 followed by W.P. Kuala Lumpur (MYR 9,093), Selangor (MYR 7,300), W.P. Labuan (MYR 6,126), Johor (MYR 5,690), Pulau Pinang (MYR 5,474) and Melaka (MYR 5,447).

Based on the 2022 Global Gender Gap Report published by World Economic Forum (WEF), Malaysia stands at 103rd place out of 146 countries. Malaysia gender gap index is estimated at 0.681. This portrays the existence of gender inequality, although the gap reduced in recent years. Equality has been achieved for the sub-index educational attainment, with a score of 0.995. Health & Survival sub-index recorded a score of 0.972, followed by Economic Participation & Opportunity (0.656) and Political Empowerment (0.102).

Consumer Behaviour

Malaysia's consumer lifestyle has been evolving due to rising affluence and education levels. Malaysians are becoming more westernised, sophisticated and cosmopolitan. Consumers, though highly price sensitive, are also brand-conscious and increasingly concerned about quality. Compared to promotional campaigns and goods variety, the influence of prices on consumer purchasing behaviour have less importance.

Malaysian consumers are increasingly going online to shop, and this trend accelerated during the Covid-19 pandemic. Although some are worried about providing financial details, most of them are attracted to online shopping due to transparency in deciding prices, values and availability of products. The popularity of online shopping has grown in line with greater internet access, particularly via mobile devices. Most Malaysians choose to travel during their holidays, but most of them are intent on finding a bargain. Households in Malaysia have been on a borrowing spree over the last years, and debt levels have increased considerably, threatening to disrupt consumer spending in uncertain economic times. Most of the debts occurred due to Malaysians treating the property market as new deposit boxes. Most consumers borrowed money from banks to purchase new automobiles. Modern Malaysian consumers are choosing to dine out more often. Ever growing traffic jams and parking scarcity contribute to the rise in drive-through or home delivery. Middle-class consumers spend the most, but are starting to control their expenses as a result of the government's decision to relax subsidies, but also due to inflation rates, high property prices and slow wage growth. Malaysians are displaying a growing preference for global brands rather than locally manufactured products. As numbers increase, single, urban working women are expected to become a more influential consumer segment.

Use of collaborative platforms such as Grab, Uber and Airbnb are trending in Malaysia. Nevertheless, the government is searching new ways to regulate these emerging collaborative systems.

Consumers Associations
Federation of Malaysian Consumers Associations
Education and Research Association for Consumers
Main Advertising Agencies
Association of Accredited Advertising Agents (4As Malasya))

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Actualitzacions: September 2022

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