Malaysians in Singapore

Malaysians in Singapore refers to the citizens of Malaysia or Singaporeans of Malaysian origin residing in Singapore. According to the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, the community had a population of 952,261 in 2019, making them the world's largest Malaysian diaspora community.[1] The community is also the largest foreign community in Singapore, constituting 44% of the country's foreign-born population[2][3] and an additional 350,000 Malaysians cross the Johor–Singapore Causeway daily for work and school in the city-state.[4]

Malaysians in Singapore
Rakyat Malaysia di Singapura  (Malay)
Total population
952,261 (2019)[1]
Regions with significant populations
Singapore English, Malaysian English, Chinese (Cantonese, Min Chinese, Malaysian Mandarin), Malaysian Tamil, Malay, Indian Languages
Related ethnic groups
Various ethnic groups of Malaysia

Many Malaysians in Singapore are usually low income workers, working in various industries of the Singapore economy since its rapid development and industrialisation in the 1970s.[5][6]

Malaysia and Singapore sharing similar historical and cultural roots and as well as cross-border familial ties, are some of the reasons for the huge community of Malaysians in the country. Others move to Singapore permanently and had became Singaporeanised.[7][8][9] Other reasons include the country's proximity to Malaysia,[10] more job opportunities and the high exchange rate of the Singapore dollar over the Malaysian ringgit.[11]


With both Malaysia and Singapore being part of British Malaya during the British colonial rule, the people of both countries share similar cultural and historic roots, with similar multiracial populations consisting of Malays, Chinese and Indians.[8] On September 16, 1963 Malaysia was formed by the merger of the Federation of Malaya with the former British colonies of North Borneo, Sarawak and Singapore. However, on August 9, 1965, due to distrust and ideological differences between the leaders of Singapore and of the federal government of Malaysia, Singapore seceded from Malaysia and became an independent republic.[12]

Malaysian migration to Singapore began in the mid 1960s to 1970s after Singapore's independence as the government focused on transforming Singapore's economy to a export-oriented one and a manufacturing hub. Singapore experienced rapid industrialisation and Malaysians has been the main source of foreign unskilled labour for the Singaporean workforce, especially in the manufacturing and service sectors.[3][13] In the early 1970s, the government of Singapore focused on developing its electronics industry and services sector and most Malaysian workers were concentrated in those areas.[14] By the late the 1990s, however, the number of unskilled Malaysian labourers decreased and foreign labourers from other Southeast Asian states were hired to offset the labour shortage instead.[13] The outflow of skilled Malaysians, mostly to Singapore, was identified as a problem by the Malaysian government in 1995 and various programs such as the 1Malaysia initiative were introduced to counter the issue.[15]

Today, Malaysian migration includes a mix of both white-collared workers and blue-collared workers, with the Singaporean government actively encouraging highly skilled workers to settle in the country and offering scholarship programmes to attract students to its educational institutions.[13][16]


Population of Malaysians in Singapore from 1990 to 2019.[1]

During the 1990s, as Singapore moved to diversify its economy from a manufacturing-based one into a knowledge-based economy, the government relied more on foreign labour to offset Singapore's small local workforce.[17] This resulted in the population of the Malaysian community to increase from a total of 195,072 in 1990, to 431,854 in 1995, a 121% increase within a five year period.[18] By the late 1990s, there were 80,000 employment pass holders and another 450,000 on work permits, with majority being Malaysians, which constitutes 20% of the Singaporean workforce.[17][19]

There was a gradual increase of Malaysians migrating to Singapore from 2000 to 2005, increasing from 710,434 individuals to 818,337. In 2010, the total population of Malaysians in Singapore increased to 971,827 and according to the World Bank, Singapore residents, both permanent residents and Singaporean citizens, of Malaysian origin was at a population of 385,979, accounting for 46% of the Malaysian diaspora. It was also estimated that 81% of Malaysian emigrants to all countries from that year were Malaysian Chinese, and 57% of those ethnic Chinese emigrated to Singapore.[20][21] By 2015, the population of Malaysians was at 1,123,654, accounting for 20.3% of Singapore's 5,535,000 population for that year.[22]

As of 2019, there are 952,261 Malaysians or Singaporeans of partial or full Malaysian origin residing in Singapore. In addition to the permanent population in the country, about 350,000 Malaysians cross the Johor-Singapore Causeway daily to commute to work or school.[4] The community often includes white-collared workers, blue-collared workers and students studying in the city-state.[23] Factors contributing to the huge community of Malaysians in Singapore includes a stronger Singaporean currency,[24][25] Bumiputera-race based policies,[26][27] cross border marriages and admittance of students into Singaporean educational institutions through the ASEAN scholarship programme provided by the Singaporean government.[13]

Notable peopleEdit

Singaporeans of Malaysian origin are well represented in all levels of Singaporean society.[8] Many notable Singaporeans have either partial or full Malaysian origin, as Malaysia and Singapore were both under British colonial rule from the 1820s to 1950s.[28] Below is a list of notable Singaporeans of Malaysian origin and Malaysians living in Singapore.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c "International migrant stock 2019". United Nations. Retrieved 25 June 2020. This figure includes people who are of Malaysian origin in Singapore, not only Malaysian citizens
  2. ^ "UN data shows Malaysians make up biggest migrant group in Singapore at 44%". Malay Mail. 19 January 2020. Retrieved 25 June 2020.
  3. ^ a b Y., Hui; P.D., Yang; S.H., Zhan. "Immigration, Population, and Foreign Workforce in Singapore: An Overview of Trends, Policies, and Issues". Humanities & Social Studies Education (HSSE) Academic Group. 6 (1): 10–25. Retrieved 23 June 2020. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  4. ^ a b "Clearing the Crossway". 9 June 2018. Retrieved 7 February 2019.
  5. ^ Takashi, S. (2009). Across the Causeway: A Multi-dimensional Study of Malaysia-Singapore Relations. p. 125. ISBN 978-9-812-30783-5.
  6. ^ "Singapore Industrialization Policy". Country Studies. Retrieved 25 June 2020.
  7. ^ "Singapore and Malaysia: A Comparison" (PDF). Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  8. ^ a b c Jamie Koh, Stephanie Ho (2009). Culture and Customs of Singapore and Malaysia. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 9780313351167.
  9. ^ "Flourishing ties rooted in shared history". The Straits Times. 9 August 2015. Retrieved 25 June 2020. Many Singaporeans and Malaysians had friends and family on the other side of the Causeway.
  10. ^ "Young Malaysians Tell Us The Honest Truth About What It's Like To Work In Singapore". Says. 17 January 2017. Retrieved 25 June 2020. it's relatively near to Malaysia compared to other places around the world.
  11. ^ "SMEs: Locals prefer to work in Singapore". The Star. 29 April 2019. Retrieved 25 June 2020. Many preferred to work over there due to the exchange rate.
  12. ^ Noordin Sopiee, Mohamed (2005). From Malayan Union to Singapore separation : political unification in the Malaysia region, 1945-65 (2nd ed.). University Malaya Press. ISBN 9789831001943.
  13. ^ a b c d Ho, Y.J.; D.T., Adam (2011). "Malaysian Migration to Singapore: Pathways, Mechanisms and Status". Malaysian Journal of Economic Studies. 48 (2): 131–145. Retrieved 23 June 2020. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  14. ^ Stubbs, Richard (2005). Rethinking Asia's Economic Miracle: The Political Economy of War, Prosperity. p. 147. ISBN 9781137557261. Retrieved 25 June 2020.
  15. ^ "Workers' brain drain could lag Malaysian economy". Singapore Business Review. 27 June 2018. Retrieved 27 June 2020.
  16. ^ "Malaysia set to lose more skilled workers to Singapore's tech sector, say Johor business leaders". The Straits Times. 25 July 2019. Retrieved 27 June 2020.
  17. ^ a b "SINGAPORE: TOWARDS A KNOWLEDGE-BASED ECONOMY" (PDF). Nomura Foundation. 1 September 2014. Retrieved 25 June 2020.
  18. ^ Wu, Friedrich (October 1991). "The ASEAN Economies in the 1990s and Singapore's Regional Role". California Management Review. 34 (1): 103–114. doi:10.2307/41166686. ISSN 0008-1256. JSTOR 41166686. S2CID 155079093.
  19. ^ L.A., Manolo (2013). "Use of foreign labour to meet labour shortages" (PDF). ILO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific: 10–12. Retrieved 25 June 2020. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  20. ^ "Malaysia Economic Monitor, The Brain Drain". World Bank. April 2011. Retrieved 26 June 2020.
  21. ^ "Falling Malaysian Chinese population worrying: Analysts". The Straits Times. 27 January 2017. Retrieved 27 June 2020.
  22. ^ "M810001 - Indicators On Population, Annual". Statistics Singapore.
  23. ^ "4 in 10 people in Singapore are migrants - and almost 1 million are mostly from Malaysia: UN". MSN. 20 January 2020. Retrieved 26 June 2020.
  24. ^ "Migrants in Singapore mostly from Malaysia". The Straits Times. 19 January 2020. Retrieved 26 June 2020.
  25. ^ "A kleptocracy premium for the ringgit". Malaysiakini. 5 September 2017. Retrieved 26 June 2020.
  26. ^ "What's causing Malaysia's ethnic Chinese brain drain?". The South China Post. 20 May 2017. Retrieved 27 June 2020.
  27. ^ "Will Malaysia's brain drain block its economic ambitions?". BBC. 5 June 2013. Retrieved 25 June 2020.
  28. ^ Wright, Arnold; Cartwright, H. A. (1908). Twentieth Century Impressions of British Malaya: Its History, People, Commerce, Industries, and Resources. Lloyd's Greater Britain publishing Company.


  • Takashi, Shiraishi (2009), Across the Causeway: A Multi-dimensional Study of Malaysia-Singapore Relations, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, ISBN 978-9-812-30783-5
  • Koh, Jamie (2009), Culture and Customs of Singapore and Malaysia, ABC-CLIO, ISBN 9780313351167
  • Wright, Arnold (2012), Twentieth Century Impressions of British Malaya: Its History, People, Commerce, Industries, and Resources, Repressed Publishing LLC, (originally first published in 1908), ISBN 9781462298440
  • Aris Ananta, Evi Nurvidya Arifin (2004), International Migration in Southeast Asia, ISEAS Publishing, ISBN 978-981-230-279-3
  • Stubbs, Richard (2005), Rethinking Asia's Economic Miracle: The Political Economy of War, Prosperity, Red Globe Press, ISBN 978-0333964613

External linksEdit