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Brunei - People

Latest statistics put Brunei Darussalams population at 406,000 and growing at an average rate of 1.8% per annum. Brunei Darussalam has a multi-racial society, comprising of 67% Malays and 15% Chinese. Other races such as Indians, indigenous ethnic groups and expatriates make up the rest of the countrys population. Brunei Darussalam has a young population: 54% are in the 20-54 working age group, another 39% are below the age of 19 while only 7% are 55 and above.

Many cultural and linguistic differences make Brunei Malays distinct from the larger Malay populations in nearby Malaysia and Indonesia, even though they are ethnically related and share the Muslim religion. Brunei has hereditary nobility, carrying the title Pengiran. The Sultan can award to commoners the title Pehin, the equivalent of a life peerage awarded in the United Kingdom. The Sultan also can award his subjects the title Dato, the equivalent of a knighthood in the United Kingdom, and Datin, the equivalent of damehood.

Bruneians adhere to the practice of using complete full names with all titles, including the title Haji (for men) or Hajah (for women) for those who have made the Haj pilgrimage to Mecca. Many Brunei Malay women wear the tudong, a traditional head covering. Men wear the songkok, a traditional Malay cap. Men who have completed the Haj can wear a white songkok.

The requirements to attain Brunei citizenship include passing tests in Malay culture, customs, and language as well as the national Malay Islamic Monarchy (MIB) philosophy. Stateless permanent residents of Brunei are given International Certificates of Identity, which allow them to travel overseas. The majority of ethnic Chinese in Brunei are permanent residents, and many are stateless. An amendment to the National Registration and Immigration Act of 2002 allowed female Bruneian citizens to transfer their nationality to their children.

In May 2006, the law changed to allow citizenship to permanent residents who have contributed to the country's economic growth, to women married to a citizen for 2 years, to women married to permanent residents for 5 years, and to children of permanent resident fathers after the age of 2 years and 6 months. According to unofficial sources there are approximately 20,000 "stateless" persons in the country, including persons born and raised in the country who were not automatically accorded citizenship and its attendant rights but were granted permanent resident status. In July 2009, the Land Code Strata Act, which allows permanent residents to own units of multistory property for a maximum of 99 years, came into force.

Oil wealth allows the Brunei Government to provide the population with one of Asia's finest health care systems. Malaria has been eradicated, and cholera is virtually nonexistent. There are five general hospitals--in Bandar Seri Begawan, Tutong, Kuala Belait, Bangar, and Seria--and there are numerous health clinics throughout the country.

Education starts with preschool, followed by 6 years of primary education and up to 7 years of secondary education. Nine years of education are mandatory. Most of Brunei's college students attend universities and other institutions abroad, but approximately 4,880 (2009) study at the University of Brunei Darussalam. Opened in 1985, the university has a faculty of more than 300 instructors and is located on a sprawling campus overlooking the South China Sea. A second university, Sultan Sharif Ali Islamic University, was established in 2007 and offers programs such as Islamic finance and law. As of December 2009, the university had about 300 students. Upgraded to university status as of October 2008, Institut Teknologi Brunei (ITB) began offering degree programs in addition to its "Higher National Diploma" programs and had about 700 students.

The official language is Malay, but English is widely understood and used in business. Other languages spoken are several Chinese dialects, Iban, and a number of native dialects. Islam is the official religion. While religious freedom is guaranteed under Bruneis constitution, non-Islamic faiths face a variety of restrictions, including confiscation of religious materials intended for distribution and sale, and prohibitions on religious teachings in private non-Islamic schools. Christmas and other non-Islamic holidays are widely recognized in Brunei and many faiths are permitted to be practiced in private.

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Page last modified: 20-03-2013 16:47:02 ZULU