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The Asia Foundation Launches The Youth Factor: 2012 Survey of Malaysian Youth Opinion

Kuala Lumpur, December 13, 2012 — The Asia Foundation today presented the findings of its latest Malaysian youth survey. The Youth Factor, 2012 is a continuation of a series of similar youth surveys conducted between 2006 and 2008 and was undertaken between 13 April and 9 June 2012. The Foundation partnered with Taylor Nelson Sofres Malaysia (TNS) to conduct face-to-face interviews with 2,105 Malaysian youth aged between 17 and 35 years old from all 13 states and the federal territory of Kuala Lumpur.

The survey seeks to provide an accurate and timely snapshot of youth attitudes and practices. The survey covers a wide range of topics including:  the overall direction of the country, the economy, public institutions, national programmes and services, media consumption, social values, local conditions, ethnic relations and political participation.

According to the 2012 survey, Malaysian youth are generally satisfied with the progress of the country. Nearly two thirds of respondents say that the current economic condition is at least somewhat good. More than half of the respondents say the country is heading in the right direction, and the majority express no desire to live overseas.

Anthea Mulakala, Country Representative for The Asia Foundation in Malaysia noted that, “Malaysia’s 13th general elections are imminent.  Youth are a critical and pivotal electorate.  We hope the findings will enable both the government and opposition to better understand and respond to the nation’s youth.”

The survey reveals that Malaysian youth are politically sensitive; they are aware of core government policies such as ‘Vision 2020′ and ’1 Malaysia’ and pay attention to the state of their communities and the nation. They are also able to critically assess the performance of various institutions in the country such as the civil administration, the Prime Minister, the police, the legal system and non-profit organisations (NGOs).

Based on their responses to survey questions on religious beliefs, criteria for choosing a political party and ’1 Malaysia,’ there seems to be good awareness and general agreement that unity and harmony is a significant theme in Malaysia. The ability to speak comfortably in more than one language is also a sign of adaptability to Malaysia’s multilingual environment. However, this sense of racial harmony could be limited to Malaysians, and not extended to migrant and foreign workers living in the country.  Survey responses indicate a somewhat negative perception of foreign workers among the youth.

Other findings from the 2012 survey include:

  • Malaysian youth are increasingly well-informed. In 2007, 39% of youth interviewed said they read newspapers every day. The number rose to 48% in 2012. Youth who watch television for information daily also rose from 52% in 2007 to 74% in 2012.
  • The 2007 survey observed that the growth of internet usage would continue to flourish. True to our prediction, and comparing against the 2007 National Youth Survey, the usage of Internet has increased tremendously over the past five years. The huge drop in the percentage of youth who do not at all access the Internet for information seeking in the past five years, from 67% in 2007 to a mere 2% in 2012, indicate how quickly Malaysian youth have adapted to connecting to the World Wide Web as a source of information.
  • Despite being positive about the state of the economy, unemployment is an area of concern amongst youth. For Sabahan youth, unemployment is the most pressing issue (26%). Looking at the unemployment rate in Sabah which has been inching upwards from 4.9% in 2008 to 5.6% in 2011, Sabahan youth’s concerns may be justified. Youth recognise that a tertiary education is vital in getting a higher income job. Hence, higher education pursuits could become more prevalent amongst Malaysia’s youth in years to come.

The survey aims to establish a baseline for measuring change in these attitudes and practices over time. Ultimately, the survey seeks to provide a balanced source of information and analysis that can inform policy and decision-making for government, business and civil society.  While the survey report is current available, additional data will be made available by the Foundation via a dedicated website in the coming months.

Read more about the Foundation’s work in Malaysia. For more Asia Foundation surveys, publications and reports on Malaysia, please visit the Resource Library. For media inquiries, please visit the Press Room.

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