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10 Facts About Poverty in Malaysia
Malaysia is a South Asian country that consists of two noncontiguous regions; Peninsular Malaysia which West Malaysia and Thailand share, and East Malaysia which Malaysia shares with the island of Borneo. While this nation has been able to rapidly tackle its poverty situation, millions of Malaysians still struggle every day. Here are 10 facts about poverty in Malaysia.

10 Facts About Poverty in Malaysia

  1. Malaysia’s Poverty Definition – Malaysia’s government defines poverty as families earning between the Poverty Line Income (PLI) of MYR800 and those families living below the national median household earnings by 50 percent. As of 2015, only 0.4 percent of the population was living below the national poverty line.
  2. How Malaysia Measures Poverty – Malaysia calculates poverty with the PLI and Consumer Price Index. The Department of Statistics (DOSM) uses micro-data to calculate poverty. It conducts household surveys and the micro-data refers to those responses. The lack of transparency between the government and its citizens lies in the fact that the government hides these results from the public. This leaves many unanswered questions about the poverty situation in Malaysia.
  3. Unemployment – As of September 2018, Malaysia had a 3.3 percent unemployment rate and youth unemployment of just over 10 percent. The total number of unemployed people is 516,400. Limited English language proficiency, unpolished skills and a lack of digital literacy are common reasons for unemployment.
  4. Access to Clean Water – The Orang Asli, or the first peoples of Malaysia, are significantly unhealthier compared to others due to their inability to access clean water. This caused the Global Peace Foundation to initiate the Communities Unite for Pure Water (CUP) initiative by installing water pumps in a village to filter water into each household. This helped the entire village gain access to clean running water.
  5. Access to Health Care – Malaysia has a two-tier health system, public and private. Both are easily accessible, yet the public sector suffers from severe overcrowing and wait times are very long. This resulted in many people changing from public to private health care, which is very expensive, leaving families one accident away from becoming poor.
  6. High Living Costs – The government implemented the Goods and Services Tax (GST) on April 1, 2015, in order to replace sales and services tax. This added tax of six percent caused people to look for new jobs in order to better situate themselves for the new tax. Only 19 percent of responders said that the tax had done nothing to their routine.
  7. Corruption – People know corruption to be Malaysia’s “public enemy number one.” Bribery and corrupt activities went from 19 percent in 2014 to 30 percent in 2016. The 1 Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) case is an example of corruption in the government. Prime Minister Najib Razak looted $4.5 billion from a state fund focused on financing infrastructure and “other economy-linked deals.” This scandal affected a wide spread of people “including financial institutions” from Malaysia to Singapore.
  8. Minimum Wage – Malaysia’s minimum wage was RM1,000 per month before the National Wage Council’s September 2018 meeting announced its new minimum wage of RM1,050. The government wanted to keep costs of production and wages low so Malaysians did not lose competitiveness with foreign investors. After many protests, Malaysia raised its minimum wage to RM1,100.
  9. Common Diseases – Poor diet and nutrition cause killer diseases in Malaysia. Coronary heart disease, cancer and strokes affect Malaysians the most. The Malaysian Rare Disorders Society, founded in 2004, is a voluntary organization that looks out for the welfare of families and represents them as rare disorders affect them. The organization helped Aminisha, a girl with the congenital disorder of glycosylation (CDG) Type1b, in May 2004. It provided her tube feeding, plasma transfusion and extraction of excess fluids.
  10. Social Programs – Under Malaysia’s 2017 Budget, the Malaysian government allocated about RM10 billion for government aid and subsidies. The government helped the Ministry of Women, Family, and Community Development, which financially helps single mothers for a year by providing a minimum of RM100 per month per child and a maximum of RM450 per month if there are more than four children.

Another way Malaysia combats poverty is through EPIC Homes. This NGO has been providing “safe and sustainable housing” for poor families, mainly the Orang Asli, since 2010. About 82 percent of Orang Asli are in need of housing. Over 5,000 builders have constructed over 100+ houses in over 10+ villages. With the continued work from Malaysia’s government to increase the country’s minimum wage and aid from different initiatives, Malaysia’s poverty status should improve.

–  Isabella Gonzalez
Photo: Flickr

Human Rights in MalaysiaHuman rights in Malaysia have enjoyed few gains in recent years. Many infractions against civil liberties — both large and small — continue at the hands of enforcers of both civil and Sharia law.

A primary setback came with the National Security Council Act which was passed in 2016. This allows police officers to arrest and detain civilians without a warrant in places deemed “security areas” by prime minister Najib Razak. The Malaysian government defends this act as a security measure, but it has opened the door to action against political opposition members and increased tyrannical law enforcement.

The Sedition Act and the Communications and Multimedia Act is also used capriciously to limit freedom of speech and expression. Multiple members of opposition groups have been jailed for protesting or speaking against the Malaysian government. It is not uncommon for police to interrupt peaceful protests via tear gas, water cannons and arrests.

Moreover, human rights in Malaysia are violated through heavy censorship online, in print and in films. According to the U.S. Department of State (DOS), journalists are often charged on accounts of “malicious news” and are offered insufficient support from the government if attacked or threatened by independent parties. Printing permits are denied and publications shut down if their views reflect poorly on the government. Likewise, websites are frequently blocked for similar reasons.

The DOS also reports that Sharia law enforcement agents often take part in police raids, targeting citizens for “indecent dress, alcohol consumption, sale of restricted books, or close proximity to members of the opposite sex.” Homosexual acts are illegal and transgender people are persecuted by law enforcement.

Prison conditions are unfortunate per independent studies and NGOs. Reports show that some prisoners are held without trial for up to seven years. Caning is common under civil and sharia law as punishment for crimes both serious and trivial. Sexual abuse and torture are used as means of punishment in Malaysian prisons and detainment centers, signifying severe violations of human rights in Malaysia.

The Malaysian government also disclosed that an average of 18 persons per month died while in police custody from early 2013 to April 2016. Yet, in cases where police officers are accused of these acts, perpetrators are regularly acquitted, even when there is evidence of collusion or concealment. Additionally, there exists no grievance-reporting procedure for inmates or detainees.

Children’s and women’s issues also pose huge problems for human rights in Malaysia. Physical, sexual and neglectful abuse is reported and secondary school enrollment is too low. The U.S. DOS reports that the government “filed 2,189 charges of child sexual abuse with only 140 successful convictions” between January 2012 to July 2016.” While it is illegal to expose or involve children in pornography or sexual exploitation, children cannot testify for themselves if they are the sole witness. In cases of child prostitution, children are often dealt with as criminals rather than victims.

Child marriage and female genital mutilation are also issues that face girls in Malaysia. The legal age for a female to marry in Malaysia is 16, with exceptions for Muslim girls younger than 16. From 2005 to 2015, 10,270 child marriage applications were reported by the Sharia Judiciary Department. Female genital mutilation occurs chiefly in hospitals, and one study found that over 90 percent of the Muslim women participants had been subject to this practice.

Rape is a major issue in Malaysia as well. Women’s groups found that 10 women were raped per day on average, and most of these women were younger than 16. The U.S. DOS reports, “In some cases authorities treated early marriage as a solution to statutory rape.” Rape often goes unreported due to a lack of concern from authorities and a negative social perspective. Just 16 percent of the reported rape cases were taken to court from 2005 to 2014, and only 2.7 percent of the cases produced convictions.

It is unacceptable for these conditions to worsen and continue as they have for the past several years. Human rights in Malaysia are inadequate and in desperate need of attention.

Emma Tennyson

Photo: Flickr