Demographic Advantage

Population – Brunei, is typically a small country and consistently held the rank of the 175th most populous country in the world. According to the World Bank in 2020, the population of Brunei stood at a mere 437,479 people. As a result of this small population though Brunei enjoys a lot of advantages at the per capita level. Brunei’s demographic advantage also lies in its high urbanization rate which stands at 78.3%. Over the years the annual growth in population is seen at round about 1%. The labor force participation rate though isn’t very encouraging as it lies at a mere 65% in 2020. The labor force participation rate also grew by about 1.1% in the year 2019-20.

Religious and ethnic diversity –Islam is the official religion of Brunei. As per the 2011 census, 78.8 percent of the population is Muslim, 8.7 percent Christian, 7.8 percent Buddhist, and the remaining 4.7 percent consists of other religions, including indigenous beliefs. The chart below depicts the same: –

Compared to the other countries in the ASEAN, Brunei isn’t as ethnically diverse. About two-thirds of the population is officially classified as Malay. This also includes not only ethnic Malays but also indigenous people in the form of Dusun, Belait, Kedayan, Murut, and Bisaya. The Chinese make one-tenth of the population. Whereas the remainder of the population is made-up of various people of South Asian descent, the Ibans, and temporary workers, from Asia and Europe predominantly.

Age – While in most countries, an ageing population is a sign of potential dwindling economic productivity, Brunei paints a different picture to this conundrum. The elderly population in the sultanate is slated to increase by 7.8 percent in 2021 thus qualifying Brunei as an ageing nation. But the government feels that the ageing population would rather help the nation achieve its target of Brunei Vision 2035. The average life expectancy of people in Brunei is 76.4 years. According the UN, about 47.7% lie between the age group of 25-54, and 38.7% lie in the age groups below 25.

Literacy Rate (% of people ages 15 and above) – 97.2%

Unemployment Rate – The following chart depicts the unemployment rate in Brunei between the years 2011-2020 according to the world bank.

Quality of Infrastructure Ranking – According to the World Bank the following are the rankings of Brunei in terms of quality of infrastructure in comparison with other ASEAN countries:-

According to the table above it is observed that the LPI rank of Brunei is second last, among the ASEAN countries. This shows that there is immense scope for improvement for the country. Having been forever blessed with petroleum and natural gas, but due to global market volatility the government has pursued diversification. A key initiative to be taken note of is the Wawasan Brunei 2035, which aims at developing the human capital to build a dynamic and sustainable economy. The 5 sectors which the government is focusing more on now are- halal products, innovative technology and creative industry, business services, tourism, and downstream oil and gas.


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