The complex ethnic composition of Malaysia is due to its geographical position, which makes it an easy bridge between the continent and the Sunda archipelago. Although today there are three groups with the greatest political-economic consistency and weight, the Malaysians (67.9%), the Chinese (24%) and the Indians (7.2%), there are many minor ones, due to multiple waves migratory and more or less marked ethnic mixes. The most ancient residents include semang, similar to the Aeta of the Philippines, who took refuge in the northern forests where they lead nomadic life; these were overlapped by the Sinoi, descended from the North, of Mongolian origin and linguistically belonging to the Mon-Khmer, dedicated to Ladang, itinerant agriculture, and finally the proto-Malays, perhaps originally from Sumatra, with darker skin than the real Malays (or deutero, that is, second, Malaysians), to whom we owe the introduction of rice growing and seafaring activities. According to 800zipcodes.com, they are mostly settled in the southern part of the peninsula, where they lead a sedentary life working on plantations, with the exception of the so-called Orang laut (men of the sea) who live on the west coast of Johor. Substantially the result of different crossings is the largest ethnic group, that of the Malays, historically devoted to agriculture and fishing: they originally lived in small villages near the coast, on the edge of the great forest, or along waterways and roads. of communication.
They represent more than half of the population, they consider themselves the only natives and hold the reins of the political-social power. Malay society is traditionally divided into two classes: the aristocratic, formed by the members of the families of the ruling sultans, and the peasant, tributary of the former. In addition, a Malay-speaking Muslim bourgeoisie has also formed in the cities, which however has mostly Arabic or Indian origin. The other two major ethnic groups, the Chinese and the Indians, they have had a noticeable development only in recent times, even if their presence is much older (from the mid 19th century to 1950, as regards Chinese immigration, from the end of the 19th century Indian immigration, brought in by the British). The Chinese are mainly employed in commercial, industrial and financial activities, even with positions of responsibility, and live mainly in cities; Indians are still heavily employed in plantations but are also present in public administration, railways, police and small businesses. Starting from the nineties of the twentieth century. new waves of migration have brought Indonesians, Filipinos, Pakistanis and Bengalis to Malaysia, including through illegal routes. Despite the spread of mixed marriages, the different components of the population are poorly integrated. Peninsular Malaysia is home to the three main ethnic groups; East Malaysia sees the Malaysians prevail in Sabah (where there are also Chinese and Europeans) while in Sarawak, the Chinese and Malaysians are concentrated and, secondly, also Indians, Indonesians and Filipinos and Europeans, albeit not in high percentages; for the rest there is the presence of Paleo-Indonesian people, whose strongest nucleus is formed by dayak (daiacchi), numerous in Sarawak, where they constitute the largest ethnic group. In contrast to many Asian states, which have felt the need to adopt strict family planning measures, the Malaysian authorities have decided to promote an expansive demographic policy. The density is 92 residents / km² but the distribution of the residents is not homogeneous. Compared to the national average, the density recorded in the Malay peninsula, where 80% of the entire population lives, is considerably higher, while those found in Sarawak and Sabah are decidedly lower; the annual growth rate is quite high, thanks to a drop in mortality, while the birth rate, on the rise at the end of the twentieth century. subsequently suffered an arrest. In Peninsular Malaysia the most populated area is the western belt, while the center is practically deserted and the eastern area is populated in a discontinuous way.
Urbanism is a recent and still expanding but important phenomenon: over two thirds of the population live in cities, while the rest of life still takes place in small villages. The most important centers of the peninsula are located in the western part and are of recent development, apart Malacca, founded by the Arabs and for a long time the main port of the entire Malay-Indonesian area. The city lapsed from competition from Singapore, today it is just a bustling fishing port. The capital, Kuala Lumpur, is located about forty kilometers from the west coast at the intersection of the main communication routes and is served by the active port of Kelang or Klang; with the expansion it has incorporated villages and satellite cities, such as Petaling Jaya. Port center is also Pinang (or George Town), on the island of Pinang: characterized by a western model of urban planning, it carries out intense industrial and commercial activities, including the processing of tin minerals; Pinang is also a renowned tourist center: the island on which it stands is rocky and picturesque, but also full of beaches. Rapidly developing is Ipoh, a mining center between the Central Range and the Larut hills which owes its importance to the fact that it is located in the richest rice growing region of Malaysia. In Sabah, major centers are the capital, Kota Kinabalu, and Sandakan, while in Sarawak, the capital is Kuching and Sibu.