Study and Review of the Socio-Economic Status of Aboriginal Peoples (Orang Asli) in Peninsular Malaysia for the Formulation of a National Development Plan for the Orang Asli

What is the project about?

community engagementFocus was given to enhance access of the Orang Asli to income generating programmes, such as cultivation of food crops, handicraft and tourism, as well as the provision of employment opportunities, infrastructure and other basic amenities. | Photo: UNDP Malaysia

As Malaysia enters into the 10th Malaysia Plan, there is a critical need to take stock of the results of strategies aimed at eradicating poverty, completing full access to education and health services, and restructuring society, particularly among the few remaining underserved communities in Malaysia.

This Joint Programme is aimed at assisting the Economic Planning Unit (EPU) of the Prime Minister’s Department to assess the success of the poverty eradication and welfare programmes for the Orang Asli undertaken under the 9th Malaysian Plan, with a view to informing strategies and programmes for incorporation in the 10th Malaysia Plan, covering 2011-2015 and towards developing a comprehensive development plan for the Orang Asli. Thereby, the programme aims to primarily address the persistent socio-economic inequalities and improve the standard and sustainability of quality of life identified under Thrusts 3 and 4 respectively of the National Mission Wawasan 2020.

What is the current situation?

 |Photo: UNDP Malaysia

The predominant indigenous populations of Peninsular Malaysia are the Orang Asli. The 2004 Population Survey of the Department of Aboriginal Affairs estimated the total population of Orang Asli in Malaysia at 141,230. The Orang Asli are not ethnically homogeneous, and are officially classified into three main ethnolinguistic groups, namely the Senoi, Proto-Malays and the Negritos, each consisting of several dialectic subgroups.

Orang Asli communities are concentrated in selected states based on their ethnic groups, with the Senoi predominantly residing in Perak and Pahang, the Proto Malays in Pahang, Johor, Negeri Sembilan and Selangor, and the Negritos in Kelantan, Perak and Pahang. The 9th Malaysian Plan identified the Orang Asli as one of the most vulnerable groups in Malaysia, with a disproportionately high incidence of poverty and hardcore poverty. In 2006, while the national figures for poverty and hardcore poverty were 7.5% and 1.4% respectively, 33.53% and 15.4% of the Orang Asli were identified as poor and hardcore poor respectively.

While only limited social indicators are available, evidence indicate that apart from abject poverty, the Orang Asli also have relatively lower immunization coverage amongst children, relatively lower percentages of safe deliveries, and, consequently, relatively higher maternal and child mortality rates when compared to the national average.1 Indicators of average educational attainment in 2000 also show that the Orang Asli are far below the national average, there exists a gender gap favouring males, and in 2009, secondary school drop-out rates for children in Form 1 to Form 5 was 49%.

Prior to the 9th Malaysia Plan, the Malaysian Government’s assistance to the Orang Asli focused on the provision of education and skills training, infrastructure facilities, electricity and water supply. By the end of 2005, a total of 9,350 houses were built under the Program Perumahan Rakyat Termiskin, and the provision of electricity and water supply to Orang Asli villages covered 12,400 and 20,100 houses, respectively. In addition, the implementation of new land development and resettlement schemes and other programmes benefited 84,250 Orang Asli, approximately half of the Orang Asli population.

In the 9th Malaysian Plan covering 2006-10, a total of RM 417.4 million was allocated for various strategies and programs to address the high incidence of poverty and hardcore poverty among the Orang Asli, including economic programmes, resettlement initiatives, and programs aimed at the development of human capital.

Focus was given to enhance access of the Orang Asli to income generating programmes, such as cultivation of food crops, handicraft and tourism, as well as the provision of employment opportunities, infrastructure and other basic amenities.

NGOs, in particular Amanah Ikhtiar Malaysia, were encouraged to extend their programmes and initiatives to eradicate poverty and hardcore poverty among the Orang Asli, while various other targeted programmes to eradicate poverty in rural areas were also launched, including the earmarking of a total of 5000 hectares of land to be developed to benefit more than 10,000 families. Finally, particular emphasis was placed on increasing school enrolment and academic achievements of Orang Asli children.

What have we accomplished so far?

  • UNDP CP Outcome: Effectively responded to human development challenges and reduced inequalities.
  • UNICEF CP Outcome: Underserved groups of children benefit from enhanced policies for the reduction of gaps in social indicators and access to health, education and social services.

Who finances it?

Year Donor Amount (USD)
2010 UNDP TRAC $1,000
2011 UNDP TRAC $80,000
2012 UNDP TRAC $199,000
2013 UNDP TRAC $76,000

Delivery in previous fiscal years

Year Donor Amount (USD)
2010 UNDP TRAC 79,828.32

Total Project Expenditure


USD Amount


Fund Code: 04000

Cost Share

Fund Code: 11888


Fund Code: 30000































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