Urban migration: A familiar story but one that may change soon

By Melati A. Jalil
Office workers are seen in front of the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur. ― Reuters pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 11 ― Marfika Adnan Haris Fadzilah, 26, left his home in Bidor, Perak for Kuala Lumpur in order to further his education.

“When I first came here, I didn’t plan to continue living here because of the obvious reason... cost of living. But I got a job offer from the government, the salary is quite okay and I have to think about the future... the benefit that I will get despite facing the high cost of living,” he told Malay Mail Online.

His story is a familiar one. Many Malaysians move from one town to another for various reasons; studies, better job opportunities, etc.

Like Marfika Adnan, the reason Muhammad Amir Roslan moved to Shah Alam was because of work. “There are lots of jobs here, even after I graduated when I decided to stay in Taiping, I often got called for interviews in Kuala Lumpur,” he said.

But Nik Nurul Izzati Nik Mohamed, who works as an executive in Shah Alam, would go back to Kelantan if given half a chance.

“If my company opens a branch in Kelantan and I’m offered the same opportunity, I will request for a transfer. Apart from the low cost of living, the atmosphere is peaceful and less crowded, and there is no place like home.”

A 2015 Migration Survey by the Department of Statistics showed that a total of 709,000 people nationwide moved during the years 2014 and 2015. Of this number, 80.9 per cent migrated to urban areas.

The survey also showed that of those who moved, 74 per cent came from other urban areas. Deputy Chief Statistician (Social/Demographic) Mohd Uzir Mahidin said only 6.9 per cent migrated from rural to urban areas.

However, he predicts that this nationwide migration would decrease in the next few years because of connectivity. This can be in the form of better inter-city commutes or better tech connectivity. You may not have to move physically to where the work is. Maybe you can commute. Or work online.

“Connectivity changes our landscape. Migration will not happen like in the 70s or 80s where people migrate to find new sources of income,” he said.

The latest survey showed that Selangor registered the highest migration rate at 4.1 per cent followed by Malacca with 3.9 per cent.

“In terms of inter-state migration, Selangor was the main receiving state,” said Mohd Uzir.

He added that most of those who moved to Selangor came from neighbouring states like Kuala Lumpur.

He also said that during the same period, 67.2 per cent of those who moved were Bumiputera, followed by 9.6 per cent Chinese, 6.8 per cent Indians and 1.2 per cent other ethnicities.

This shows that more Bumiputera are moving because of either education or better job opportunities. Of these though, most are from other urban areas.

He said there were many reasons for migration as DOS’s latest study showed that 21.5 per cent of internal migration was because of careers; job transfers, to start new jobs or to look for jobs.

“Normally, people will not migrate alone but with their family. In the period of 2014-2015, our study revealed that 44.4 per cent of internal migration was due to following family members.

“This was then followed by 24.0 per cent with reasons either due to purchase of a new house, move to another house, or looking for a new environment,” he said.

This pattern of urban to urban migration has been consistent through the years. In 2012 and 2013, 661,600 people migrated, with 65.5 per cent from urban to urban areas and 7.5 per cent from rural to urban.

For 2010 and 2011, there was a total of 623,500 migrants; 58.6 per cent migrated between urban areas and 6.4 per cent from rural to urban.

He added that migration contributed partly towards the level of urbanisation in the country as societies become more highly urbanised. Some rural areas have changed into urban areas, for example Sungai Petani, Kulim and Bandar Baharu in Kedah.

 “In 1970, the level of urbanisation was 26.9 per cent and it increased to 50.7 per cent in 1991.

“And in 2010, the level of urbanisation was at 71 per cent, 74.3 per cent for 2015 and we expect our urbanisation to rise to 76.6 per cent by 2020, which means only 23.4 per cent of our population lives in rural areas,” he said.