Country Profile: Malaysia

Country Profile: Malaysia

Capital City: Kuala Lumpur

Population, 2010: 27.9 million

Language: Bahasa Malaysia

Monetary Unit: Malaysian Ringgit


1. Overview

Australia is becoming an increasingly popular destination for Malaysian immigrants – particularly for the ethnic Chinese minority. The vast majority of Malaysia’s permanent migrants come to Australia through the Skill Stream, accounting for 9 in every 10 permanent visas granted through the Migration Program in 2009-10. Australia is also a major provider of education services to Malaysia, in June 2010 there were over 16 000 Malaysian international students in Australia.

As an economy, Malaysia has transformed itself from a country reliant on the export of raw materials such as rubber and tin into an emerging multi-sector economy with a strong export focus – particularly in the area of electronic goods. It was this strong focus on exports that contributed to an economic slowdown in Malaysia as international demand for its consumer goods softened during the Global Economic Crisis. Since then the economy has recovered strongly with estimated GDP growth for 2010 of 6.5 per cent. Despite the significant recovery from the global recession, there does remain a substantial income differential between Australia and Malaysia. On a purchasing power parity basis, GDP per capita in 2010 was two and a half times higher for Australia than Malaysia.

In 2010, 5.3 per cent of Malaysia’s population were living outside Malaysia. Among the tertiary-educated, the rate is even higher with 11.1 per cent living abroad. For these emigrants Australia is an attractive destination both for employment and quality of life opportunities, and ranks second as a choice in destination countries for Malaysian emigrants, behind Singapore.

A summary measure of well being is the Human Development Index (HDI), produced by the United Nations. The HDI is a composite measure of three dimensions of human development: health, education and income. Australia ranks very high on this measure, with a 2010 score of 0.94, second only to Norway.

Table 1

Malaysia ranks well compared to the rest of East Asia and the Pacific with an HDI of 0.74 well above the regional average of 0.65. Internationally, Malaysia currently ranks 57 out of 169 countries.


2. Community in Australia

At the end of June 2009 there were 129 580 Malaysia born people living in Australia, 67.5 per cent more than was reported in the August 2006 Census of Population and Housing. This makes it the ninth largest migrant community in Australia – equivalent to 1.5 per cent of Australia’s overseas born population and 0.6 per cent of Australia’s total population.

For Australia’s Malaysian born migrants:

  • The median age of 37.1 years was 0.3 years above that of the general population.
  • Females slightly outnumbered males – 54 per cent compared with 46 per cent.
  • At June 2010, the labour force participation rate of 61 per cent was slightly lower than the national rate of 65 per cent.
  • The unemployment rate of 3.6 per cent at December 2010 was considerably lower than the national rate of 5.0 per cent.*
  • 63 700 Malaysians were working in Australia at September 2010 – of these nearly half (49 per cent) were professionals, and a further 16 per cent were clerical and administrative workers.


3. Permanent Migration and Temporary Entry

Summary, 2009-10

Permanent Additions to the Australian Population*

There were 5051 Malaysia born permanent additions to the Australian resident population. Among the new additions to the Australian resident population:

  • The Skill Stream accounted for 78 per cent of all permanent additions and comprised 1942 skilled migrants and 1984 accompanying family members.
  • The Family Stream comprised 960 family migrants and accounted for 19 per cent of all permanent additions.
  • Humanitarian Programs and non-program migration of Malaysian born New Zealand citizens accounted for the bulk of the remainder with 1.5 percent and 1.7 per cent of permanent additions respectively.


Permanent Migration Visas Granted, 2009-10*

Table 2

There were 5220 Malaysian nationals that were granted a permanent visa. Among the new permanent visa holders:

  • The Skill Stream accounted for 82 per cent (4277 persons) of the permanent visas granted, with 8 in every 10 skilled migrants applying through the supply-driven; points tested General Skilled Migration Program.
  • The Family Stream accounted for 18 per cent (940 persons) of the permanent visas granted, with around 2 in every 10 (21 per cent) entering as the parent of an Australian resident.*

Temporary Entry Visas Granted, 2009-10

Table 3 & 4

Of the main temporary entry program visas granted to Malaysian nationals:

  • 10 634 Student visas were granted, of which 70 per cent were to those enrolling in an undergraduate or postgraduate course in Australia.
  • 1130 Malaysian workers were granted a Business Long Stay (subclass 457) visa, with Medical Practitioners in Training, General Medical Practitioners and Registered Nurses among the main sponsored occupations.
  • 166 119 Visitor visas were granted.

Detailed Analysis

Permanent Migration Visas Granted

Table 2 & 4

Skilled Migration

Skilled migration is focused on facilitating the permanent entry of those who can make a positive contribution to Australia through their skills, qualifications, entrepreneurial spirit and future employment potential.

  • In 2009-10, 107 868 Skilled visas were granted, with grants to Malaysian nationals accounting for 4277 grants or 4 per cent of the total.
  • Skilled migration remains the predominant route for Malaysian nationals seeking permanent residency in Australia. In 2009-10 the Skilled Stream accounted for 82 per cent of permanent visas granted to Malaysian nationals through the Migration Program.
  • While total grants fell by 6 per cent, permanent skilled visas granted to Malaysian nationals increased by 5 per cent in 2009-10.
  • Reflecting the shift towards, demand-driven entry, there was a steady increase in the number of employer sponsored visas granted to Malaysian nationals – increasing from 240 grants in 2006-07 to 621 in 2008-09. There was a slight decrease in 2009-10 when grants fell to 571.
  • In 2009-10 there were 1942 Primary Applicants with Skill Stream visas, making Malaysia the sixth largest provider of Skilled Primary Applicants in that year.
  • The number of Malaysian nationals granted a General Skilled Migration* visa continues to increase, with 9 per cent more visas granted in 2009-10 than the previous year. In the last year, 80 per cent of all skilled migrants from Malaysia were granted a visa under this program, with Accountants, General Medical Practitioners and Civil Engineers among the main occupations.
  • State and Territory sponsored visas granted to Malaysian nationals have also increased up 66 per cent in 2009-10.


Family Migration

Family migration facilitates the entry of close family members of Australian citizens, permanent residents and eligible New Zealand citizens. The program is currently dominated by fiancés, partners and dependent children, but also provides options for other family members such as parents, aged dependent relatives, carers and remaining relatives to join family in Australia.

  • The Family Stream makes up a relatively small component of permanent visas granted to Malaysian nationals, 18 per cent of the total granted in 2009-10. Visas grants in the Family Stream have increased 15 per cent since 2006-07.
  • In 2009-10, 60 254 Family visas were granted, with grants to Malaysian nationals accounting for 1.6 per cent (940 grants) of the total.
  • 62 per cent of all family visas granted to Malaysian nationals were to the partner of an Australian resident.
  • Total visas granted through the Family Stream were up 7 per cent in 2009-10, but for Malaysian nationals the number of visas granted remained the same.


Temporary Entry Visas Granted
International Students

The Student Visa Program consists of a range of visa categories that broadly correspond to education sectors. Students must study with an accredited education provider and in a course registered on the Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students.
In 2009-10 there was a reduction in both the number of student visa applications received and the number of visas granted. Reasons included increased competition from overseas markets compounded by the strengthening of the Australian dollar, the introduction of robust student visa integrity measures and changes made to the General Skilled Migration program. While student visa grants fell by over 15 per cent, the total stock of international students in Australia remained relatively unaffected, only decreasing 1.1 per cent in 2009-10.

  • Australia is the most popular tertiary study destination for international students originating from Malaysia. In 2008, 36 per cent of all Malaysian international tertiary students chose Australia.
  • In June 2010, there were 16 130 Malaysian student visa holders in Australia representing 4.2 per cent of total international students. Malaysia represents the sixth largest source for international students in Australia.
  • Following a period of steady growth, student visas granted to Malaysian nationals fell 8 per cent in 2009-10, half the 15.8 per cent fall in total grants.
  • In 2009-10, 10 634 Malaysian nationals were granted a Student visa, 3.9 percent of the total Student visas granted. Of these, around 7 in every 10 were granted to students enrolling in an undergraduate or postgraduate course in Australia.

Business Long Stay (subclass 457) Workers
The subclass 457 visa program allows Australian employers to sponsor foreign workers for employment in management, professional, technical and skilled trades’ positions. The program is demand-driven and highly responsive to Australian labour market conditions. Statistics shows that the demand for subclass 457 visas increases in line with increased skilled vacancies.

The demand for foreign workers under this program declined following the economic downturn, but application rates steadily increased over the second half of 2009-10. In recent months business conditions have begun to improve and the number of applications lodged has increased.

In 2009-10, 67 980 visas were granted globally, a reduction of 33 per cent on the previous year.

  • In 2009-10, there were 1130 subclass 457 visas granted to Malaysian nationals representing 1.7 per cent of the total subclass 457 visas granted. In line with the overall drop in this visa category, the number of grants in 2009-10 to Malaysian nationals were 40 per cent lower than the previous year.
  • Among the Malaysian workers sponsored under this program, Medical Practitioners in Training, General Medical Practitioners and Registered Nurses were the main occupations for which Australian employers recruited from abroad.


The vast majority of temporary entrants from Malaysia are visitors here for a holiday or short business visit. In 2009-10, there were 166 119 visitor visas granted to Malaysian citizens, making Malaysia the fifth largest source of visitors to Australia.

Work and Holiday Maker Program

Australia has reciprocal Work and Holiday visa arrangements with six other countries. Under the Work and Holiday visa, participants must be aged 18-30, have functional English and (with the exception of the USA), have the support of their home government. Australia’s first Work and Holiday arrangement began in 2003 with arrangements currently in place with Chile, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Turkey and the United States of America.

  • Work and Holiday Maker arrangements with Malaysia commenced on 1 February 2009, with 82 visas granted in 2008-09, increasing to 100 grants in 2009-10.


4. Emigration*

Table 5

In 2009-10, 865 Malaysia born permanent residents indicated at departure that they were leaving Australia permanently – with 31 per cent intending to return to Malaysia.

  • Over a third (37 per cent) of these emigrants were professionals, while a further 16 per cent were managers and administrators.
  • The largest proportions were emigrating from New South Wales and Victoria, with each State accounting for 32 per cent and 30 per cent of Malaysia born emigrants respectively.


5. State and Territory summary

Table 5

At the time of the 2006 Census, a third of all Malaysia born people in Australia were residing in Victoria. Victoria was also the most popular State of intended residence for new Malaysian permanent migrants in 2009-10, with one third of permanent migrants indicating that they would live in Victoria. Around 4 in every 10 Malaysian students were also enrolling in a Victorian-based academic institution. Western Australia was the most common destination for Malaysian subclass 457 workers, with 28 per cent employed in that State.


Explanatory notes

  • Unemployment rates for individual migrant countries are calculated from the monthly ABS labour force survey (using published and unpublished data) and have been averaged across six months to account for monthly fluctuations and a small sample size. The national unemployment rate is the seasonally adjusted figure for December 2010.
  • Permanent Additions are the sum of those granted a permanent residency visa while in Australia, and those granted a visa through an Australian mission abroad, that have entered Australia during the respective reporting period.
  • Visa grants are the sum of all permanent migration and temporary entry visa applications granted in Australia, through the Australian Government’s online visa portal, and visa grants made at an Australian mission abroad.
  • Australian residents are Australian citizens residents in Australia and other permanent residents.
  • General Skilled Migration (GSM) is the sum of total Skilled Family Sponsored, Skilled Independent and State/Territory Sponsored visas.
  • Emigration is the number of persons who reported on their overseas departure card that they were leaving Australia permanently.


Further reading

This profile was prepared using information and statistics collated by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, and commentary extracted from the following publications:

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
See:Country, economy and regional information

Department of Immigration and Citizenship

International Monetary Fund
See:Country Information

Central Intelligence Agency
See:World Fact Book 2010

United Nations Development Program
See:Human Development Report 2010

World Bank
See:The Migration and Remittances Factbook 2011


Statistical tables – Malaysia


Table 1: Economic and Human Development Indicators, 2010

Australia Malaysia
Adult Literacy (%) 99.0 88.7
Fertility Rates (children per female) 1.9 2.4
GDP per capita PPP (current international $) 36 692 14 603
Life Expectancy at birth (years) 81.9 74.7
Mean years of schooling 12 9.5
Human Development Index 0.94 0.74
Median Age (years) 37.8 26.3
Population (millions) 22.3 27.9
Population growth, 2010 (%) 1.7 1.5

* All data (with the exception of adult literacy rates) were sourced from the UNDP Human Development Report 2010. Data on adult literacy was sourced from the CIA World Factbook, due to incomplete country information in the UNDP Report. Australia’s data was sourced from the ABS. Data on GDP per capita from International Monetary Fund, World Economics Outlook Database Oct 2010.
Table 2: Number of persons granted a permanent Australian visa (by nationality), 2006-07 to 2009-10

Malaysia 2006-07 2007-08 2008-09 2009-10
Skilled Migration
   Business Skills 108 148 338 294
   Distinguished Talent 6 1 4 1
   Employer Sponsored 240 332 621 571
  General Skilled Migration
   Skilled Family Sponsored 987 1 137 613 429
   Skilled Independent 2 346 2 354 2 145 2 369
   State/Territory Sponsored 151 213 368 613
Total – Skilled visa grants 3 838 4 185 4 089 4 277
Skilled visas as a proportion of all permanent visas (%) 82 84 81 82
   Family Migration
Child 117 112 90 74
Prospective Marriage (fiancé) 57 56 59 44
Partners 523 500 592 588
Parent 90 125 165 198
Preferential/Other Family 29 23 32 36
Total – Family visa grants 816 816 938 940
Family visas as a proportion of all permanent visas (%) 18 16 19 18
Special Eligibility 0 0 2 3
Total – Permanent Migrants 4 654 5 001 5 029 5 220

Sourced from internal data collected by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship.
Table 3: Number of persons granted a temporary Australian visa (by nationality), 2006-07 to 2009-10

Malaysia 2006-07 2007-08 2008-09 2009-10
International Students
English Language Intensive Course for Overseas Students 70 100 137 171
Schools 354 353 317 325
Vocational and Education Sector 1 097 1 429 1 588 1 281
Higher education 6 852 7 098 7 907 7 420
Postgraduate 625 1 045 1 104 961
Non-Award 413 470 413 382
AusAID or Defence 85 166 101 94
Total – International Student visa grants 9 496 10 661 11 567 10 634
Business Long Stay (subclass 457) 1 690 2 110 1 890 1 130
eVisitor 125 019 133 218 157 726 163 200
Tourist 1 478 1 614 1 570 1 418
Business Visitor 554 1 033 1 787 1 491
Sponsored Family Visitor 6 5 10 10
Total – Visitor visa grants 127 057 135 870 161 093 166 119
Work and Holiday Visa 0 0 82 100

Sourced from internal data collected by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship.
Table 4: Main occupations among those granted a permanent (GSM) or temporary (subclass 457) visa, 2006-07 to 2009-10

Malaysia Business Long Stay (subclass 457) General Skilled Migration
Temporary Entry (employer sponsored) Permanent Entry (unsponsored)
2009-10 Medical Practitioner In Training 180 Accountant 450
General Medical Practitioner 100 General Medical Practitioner 160
Registered Nurse 40 Civil Engineer 140
Specialist Managers * 20 Computing Professional * 140
Accountant 20 Mechanical Engineer 130
Mechanical Engineering Technician 20 Retail Pharmacist 120
Civil Engineer 20 Electrical Engineer 110
Chef 10 Electronics Engineer 90
Computing Professional* 10 Chemical Engineer 60
Business and Information Professionals NEC 10 Quantity Surveyor 30
2008-09 General Medical Practitioner 180 Accountant 520
Medical Practitioner In Training 150 Retail Pharmacist 110
Chef 60 Civil Engineer 90
Computing Professional * 50 Computing Professional * 90
Civil Engineer 40 Mechanical Engineer 90
Accountant 30 Electrical General Medical Practitioner 90
Registered Nurse 30 General Medical Practitioner 60
Electrical Engineer 30 General Medical Practitioner 50
Business and Information Professionals NEC 30 Chemical Engineer 50
Mechanical Engineering Technician 20 Electronics Engineer 50

Sourced from internal data collected by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship.

* Within the broad professionals field, where no actual classification exists for the specific occupation.
Table 5: National Geographical Distribution, by country of birth and nationality



Proportion of all persons counted in the Census, 2006 33 25 20 8 10 2 1 2
Proportion of all Malaysia born counted in the Census, 2006 25 33 10 6 21 1 1 2
Geographical Distribution, Permanent Additions 2009-10
Skill Stream 14 36 11 10 25 1 1 1
Family Stream 21 34 11 7 23 1 1 2
Geographical Distribution, Temporary Entrants 2009-10
International Students 14 41 11 9 20 2 0 2
Business Long Stay (subclass 457) visa 26 21 15 6 28 1 2 1
Most recent State or Territory of Residents, Emigration
All Malaysia born 32 30 11 2 23 0 1 0

Information on migrants was sourced from internal data collected by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship. Information on the geographical distribution of the total population was sourced from the 2006 Census of Population and Housing.
Table 6: Malaysia’s migration ranking relative to other countries

Malaysia 2008-09 2009-10
Population in Australia 11 9
General Skilled Migration 6 6
Employer sponsored 12 12
Total Skilled Stream 6 6
Total Family Stream 16 14
International Students 7 6
Business Long Stay (subclass 457) visa 11 13
Visitors 4 4

All information refers to the number of visas granted that year and was sourced from internal data collected by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, except for Population in Australia which is sourced from the ABS and refers to the stock of overseas born persons in Australia at the time.

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