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Gender and Land Rights Database

Malaysia

In 2005, the population was estimated at 25.633 million people, of which 49 percent were women (1). The rural population was 33.8 percent of the total (2). Women accounted for 49 percent of the rural population (3). The average population density was 78 persons per square kilometre (1). The Bumiputera, the ethnic Malays and other indigenous populations, represent 67 percent of the population, followed by the Chinese and the Indians who represent 25 percent and 8 percent respectively. Sixty percent of the population is Muslim, but Buddhist, Hindu and Christian communities also exist (4).

In 2007, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was US$186.7 billion, with an annual average growth of 3.4 percent in 1990-2007; the per capita GDP was US$7 033 (5). In terms of value added to GDP, industry and services contributed 52 percent and 40 percent each in 2006, while agriculture contributed 8 percent (2), falling from 18.7 percent in 1990 and 10.5 percent in 2000 (6). However, the agricultural sector as a whole, together with the agro-based industry, accounted for 14.7 percent of value added to GDP in 2005 and employed 21.9 percent of the labour force (7). Agricultural products for domestic consumption include paddy, fruits, vegetables and coconut (6). Palm oil leads the agricultural exports accounting for 25.4 percent of the total (7). Other exports include rubber, fatty acids, oil of palm kernels, margarine and shortening and refined sugar (6). Agricultural exports were 7 percent of all exports in 2005, reaching 14 percent together with agro-based manufactured products, such as tobacco, wood products and rubber products (7).

With a Human Development Index of 0.823 in 2006, the country ranks 63rd out of 179 countries (8). In 2004, 0.5 percent of the total population lived under the US$1 per day poverty line and 3 percent was undernourished (9). Life expectancy at birth in 2007 was estimated at 76.5 for women and 71.7 years for men (10). Literacy rates are high and evidence no gender gap: the rate was 97.3 for women and 97.2 for men in 2000 (9).

In 2007, the female labour force participation was 47.3 percent (11). Nine percent of women worked in agriculture in 2005, compared to 31.7 percent in manufacturing (12). Among rural women, labour force participation was 43.8 percent in 2000. Of the total number of rural women economically active, 32.4 percent were engaged in agriculture in 2000 (13). In terms of employment status, 19 percent of rural women worked as unpaid family workers, while 16.4 percent were own account workers (13). More than half of women agricultural labourers work in fruit and vegetable crops and about a third of women in agriculture are in field crops such as rubber, cocoa, coconut, coffee, tea and other diversified short-term cash crops (6).

In 1965, the laws relating to land, which formerly existed in 53 different types of legislation both at the federal and state levels, were consolidated into the National Land Code, which established a uniform system of land tenure throughout peninsular Malaysia. Under the Federal Constitution, the Federal Parliament is allowed to enact laws for all the states in peninsular Malaysia, with the exception of the States of Sabah and Sarawak, where only the respective legislatures can enact laws relating to land (14). All land belongs to the State, which might alienate it in leases not exceeding 99 years (15). With the 2002 amendment of the Land Group Settlement Areas Act, a wife or ex-wife is entitled to co-own the developed land under the Federal Land Development Authority (FELDA) scheme (30).

Agricultural land use increased from 5.9 million hectares in 2000 to 6.4 million hectares in 2005, largely due to the expansion in the land area devoted to the cultivation of oil palm, coconuts, vegetables and fruits. Of the total land area, 4.0 million ha were under oil palm, followed by 1.3 million ha under rubber. However, in 2001-2005, a total of 163 000 ha of agricultural land remained idle (12).

Sources: numbers in brackets (*) refer to sources displayed in the Bibliography