The household income in 2014 improved by RM1,141 monthly to RM6,141 per month from 2012 with growing contributions from current transfers, such as 1Malaysia People’s Aid (BR1M) payments, as well as property and investment.
According to Khazanah Research Institute's (KRI) report, The State of Households II, the growth rate of the lowest 40 percent of households has been the fastest.
KRI managing director Charon Mokhzani said while wages and salaries were the largest sources of incomes for heads of households, these only rose by 3.3 percent nominally and one percent in real terms between 2012 and 2014.
He said the gaps between urban and rural households and between households of different ethnic groups were closing and the Gini coefficient (a common measure of inequality) has improved to 0.401.
"Access to basic infrastructure - schools and public health facilities - continues to improve. We are a more wired nation as more people and households have Internet access," he said at the launch of the report in Kuala Lumpur today.
According to the report, the disparities in wealth, as measured by Employees Provident Fund and Amanah Saham Bumiputera savings, were more pronounced and there was concern many will not have saved enough for retirement, he said.
Charon said there was concern that there were many who will not have saved enough for a 20-year retirement and were taking on too much debt.
He said according to the report, while households were better off and Malaysians were living longer with life expectancy of 77.4 years for women and 72.5 years for men, food prices, which had risen faster than overall inflation, were of deep concern.
“Milk powder and other dairy products have risen in contrast to declining prices in countries like Australia and New Zealand and this is an anomaly,” he said.
Unemployment, he said, was also of concern as the share of the unemployed, particularly among the youth and those with tertiary education.
In terms of wages, he said, across all ethnic groups, households headed by professionals and skilled workers earned more.
Charon said there was a need to be cognisant of emerging challenges, with lower economic growth, rising food costs, stagnant productivity growth and ageing population and thus, safeguarding Malaysian households would require structural measures.