KUALA LUMPUR, April 3 ― Muslims are expected to make up 72.4 per cent of Malaysia’s population in 2050, compared to just 63.7 per cent in 2010, according to the latest study by Washington-based pollster Pew Research Center, which cites a high fertility rate among adherents as one of the key reasons behind the boom.
In numbers, this means there will be over 32.7 million Muslims out of the projected 45.2 million population in 2050, compared to around 18 million out of 28.4 million in 2010.
According to the report titled “The Future of World Religions”, Malaysian Christians will stay at just 9.4 per cent of the population in the next nearly 40 years, while all other religions will see their share of the populace shrinking.
The biggest decline will be with for Malaysia’s Buddhists, who will make up an estimated 10.8 per cent of the country’s population in 2050, compared to 17.7 per cent in 2010.
“In many other countries with large Buddhist populations, the Buddhist share of the population is expected to decline in the decades ahead, because Buddhists tend to be older and have fewer children than non-Buddhists,” Pew said in its report.
The projected decline of Buddhist and Hindu populations stemmed mostly from their population growth rate, with Malaysian adherents of the two faiths having less than two children in their lifetime, with a fertility rate less than 2.1.
In comparison, Malaysian Christians and Muslims have a fertility rate of between 2.5 and 3.49 on average.
The report pointed out that Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world, owing to its adherents’ comparatively youthful population and high fertility rates.
By 2050, the number of Muslims globally will be nearly equal to Christians ― currently the biggest religion ― and is poised to take over as the world’s biggest by 2070.
“Globally, Muslims have the highest fertility rate, an average of 3.1 children per woman – well above replacement level (2.1), the minimum typically needed to maintain a stable population,” said the report.
The report also pointed out that in 2010 Muslims have the most share of population younger than 15 at 34 per cent, compared to 30 per cent with Hindus and Christians at 27 per cent.
“These bulging youth populations are among the reasons that Muslims are projected to grow faster than the world’s overall population and that Hindus and Christians are projected to roughly keep pace with worldwide population growth,” the report suggested.
Despite that, the report projected that only three million people will convert from their religions into Islam, compared to the 61.5 million of people that will leave their religions to become atheists, agnostics, or the unaffiliated ― mostly from Christianity.
In terms of population however, the unaffiliated will shrink from 16 per cent to 13 per cent in the next 40 years as most of them are heavily concentrated in places with low fertility rates and aging populations, such as Europe, North America, China and Japan.
The report also showed a significant increase of Muslims in neighbouring Singapore, from 14.3 per cent in 2010 to 21.4 per cent in 2050 ― replacing Christianity as the island state’s second largest religion after Buddhism.
The rise in population share among Muslims and Hindus in Singapore will mostly be contributed to migration from Malaysia and India, the report said.