Sabah's sixfold population increase demands action on basic needs and gender equality

08 Nov 2023 09:00pm
Sabah's sixfold population surge demands action on basic needs and gender equity
Sabah's sixfold population surge demands action on basic needs and gender equity

SHAH ALAM - Sabah's population has surged sixfold in five decades, largely driven by non-citizens, and this demographic shift underscores the need for addressing basic needs and gender disparities.

Sabah Economic Planning Unit (UPEN) deputy director (planning) Celestina Aron said the report revealed that Sabah's population has grown sixfold in 50 years, largely due to non-citizens, making it three times the national growth rate.

She said the latest data from the Department of Statistics Malaysia (DOSM) indicated that Sabah's population has reached 3.6 million, emphasising that the previously estimated figure of 3.9 million was based on outdated statistics.

“With plans for the 13th Malaysia Plan (RMK13) set to commence in 2024, the findings of this study will serve as a crucial reference for the 11 ministries in Sabah involved in planning for RMK13.

“The study emphasises the need to address the basic needs of the population, including food, shelter, employment, healthcare, education, and utilities,” she said at the launch of demographic and socioeconomic changes in Sabah last Monday.

Celestina added that the "Sabah Maju Jaya" roadmap has been crafted to address these needs, with a specific focus on sectors like agriculture, industrial jobs, tourism, and others to drive economic growth.

She said the notable government initiatives, such as "SMJ Rumah" for housing the underprivileged, were a testament to their commitment to addressing these essential requirements.

“Healthcare, education, and utilities are other key areas where investments will be made,” she said.

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Besides, she said the study also highlighted a significant gender disparity in the workforce.

“Only 49.1 per cent of married women in Sabah are part of the labour force, while 96.8 per cent of married men are employed, underscoring a substantial gender gap.

“To bridge this divide, the government, under the leadership of Madani, aims to increase female participation in the labour force to 60 per cent.

“Additionally, to achieve this goal, substantial allocations have been made starting in 2023 for various programmes aimed at empowering women, particularly in the gig economy,” she said.

Commenting further, she said Sabah's women are making substantial contributions to the gig economy, and programmes are being developed to integrate them further.

“Skills training programmes, such as bird nest cultivation, have been proposed to enable housewives and women to engage in productive work.

“These initiatives aim to empower women to start businesses, market their products, and enhance their skills, particularly in rural areas.

“The significant budget allocations for these initiatives are expected to lead to a substantial increase in female participation in the labour force in Sabah,” she said.

She added that the government remains committed to creating opportunities for women and reducing the gender disparity, especially in the workforce.

“These steps, combined with strategic planning and development initiatives, are expected to lead Sabah towards a brighter and more inclusive future,” she said.

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