BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN – Brunei’s overall population has shrunk for the first time as COVID-19 restrictions forced employers to hire fewer foreigners last year.

The population dropped 1.3 percent to about 453,600 between 2019 and 2020, according to the Department of Economic Planning and Statistics’ (DEPS) latest mid-year population estimates report.

The rising number of Bruneians was not enough to offset the population decline after a 10.9 percent fall in “temporary residents”.

DEPS said COVID-19 travel curbs had resulted in fewer foreign residents from 94,200 in 2019 to 83,900 last year — the first time Brunei reported a decrease in foreign workers since records began.

“A number of foreign workers have left the country as their contract had expired, but only a limited number of new foreign workers are allowed to enter the country for certain sectors and jobs,” the report stated.

In March last year, the home affairs ministry suspended the issuance of foreign worker permits as part of coronavirus control measures.

At present, only foreign workers deemed essential are allowed to enter the country.

Source: Department of Economic Planning and Statistics

Data shows upward trend in number of Bruneians

The number of citizens continued its upward trend, rising 1.3 percent from an estimated 331,800 people in 2019 to 336,000 the following year.

Data also showed a 0.6 percent increase in permanent residents to about 33,700 people last year.

Out of the total population, Brunei citizens still accounted for the largest share with 74.1 percent, up from 72 percent in the previous year.

Temporary residents made up 18.5 percent of the overall population, a two percent decrease from 2018-2019, while 7.4 percent of the population consists of permanent residents.

DEPS said the population estimates were calculated based on data from the Population Housing Census Update 2016 and incorporating three major components of population changes – births, deaths and net migration.

Source: Department of Economic Planning and Statistics

Malays continue to form the largest community in the country at 65.8 per cent, or 298,400 persons.

Ethnic Chinese comprised 10.2 per cent of the population and other races made up the remainder of the Brunei population share.

The report also showed that men outnumbered women, accounting for 53.1 percent of the population.

In terms of age distribution, 48.2 percent of residents belong to the 25-54 age bracket while those aged 14 and below comprised 20.4 percent of the population.

The median age rose to 31.3 years in 2020 as opposed to 30.6 years in 2019.

Brunei-Muara remains the most populated district at 69.7 percent, followed by Belait (16.5%), Tutong (11.4%) and Temburong (2.5%).

Brunei’s population density is 80 persons per square kilometre.