The southern jewel of Malaysia’s investment crown

Johor an important gateway into the nation and to the surrounding region

ALTHOUGH there was trepidation surrounding the coming of the 21st Century, the year 1999 moved on to the year 2000 without a hitch, relatively speaking. In fact, despite the second decade of the new millennium beginning with a worldwide economic recession, it was the start of the third decade that brought about a profound impact as the full effect of the COVID-19 pandemic took the world by storm in 2020.


In the two years since then, every nation has undertaken various measures to combat the disease and restore their status to what it was before the disruption – no easy task, considering the vast extent of the havoc wreaked by the pandemic in terms of both social and economic wellbeing.


In that respect, Malaysia is certainly on par with its sister nations within the region, i.e. the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) region, where it and the other members (Indonesia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam) that make up the six largest economies in the bloc were expected to witness positive real GDP growth rates in 2021, according to GlobalData. Even more importantly, ASEAN Briefing reports that the country is set to become an important sub-regional interconnectivity hub for Southeast Asia – and one that the World Bank says is likely to transition to a high-income economy between 2024 and 2028.


This seems to be supported by the fact that a survey by the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China shows that 23% of European companies in that country are considering shifting their investments away from there. Commenting on Jun 21, 2022, the body’s vice president Bettina Schoen-Behanzin mentioned that these firms may consider moving investments to other markets – particularly staying in Asia and looking at ASEAN – if the uncertainty continues.


Within Malaysia itself, there are several regions that have been bolstered by government support over the decades to encourage investment into the nation; and even taking into all these noteworthy efforts, it can be argued that Johor – the southernmost region of the Peninsular – is more than able to hold its own against its sister states.


Significant since ancient times

Even as the fortunes of its neighbouring states have ebbed and flowed, Johor has always been an area of noteworthy value, historically speaking. Originally called Ujung Tanah in Malay and Ujong Medini in ancient Javanese – both literally meaning “Land’s End”, because of the state’s location at the tip of the Malay Peninsula, which coincides with the most southerly point of the Asian continental mainland – it became famous for an abundance of gemstones near the Johor River. As such, it became even more famously known to the Siamese as Gangganu/Ganggayu (“Treasury of Gems”), and eventually by the Arabic word “Jauhar” (“gem/precious stone”). And although it has also gained other names since then, the official name of Johor now sports an Arabic honorific: Johor Darul Ta’zim (“Johor, the Abode of Dignity”).


Additionally, this southern state has also been a trendsetter in the history of the nation, being the first state in what was then known as Malaya to adopt a constitutional monarchy system; this was done in 1895 through the Undang-Undang Tubuh Negeri Johor (“the Constitution for the Establishment of the Johor State”) created by Sultan Abu Bakar. The constitutional head is the Sultan by virtue of being a member of the Johor Royal Family descended from Sultan Abu Bakar. The current Sultan and Yang-di Pertuan of the State of Johor, The Abode of Dignity and its dependencies is HM Sultan Ibrahim Ibni Almarhum Sultan Iskandar Al-Haj, who succeeded to his father’s throne on Jan 23, 2010 to become the 25th Sultan of Johor and concurrently as the fifth Sultan of modern Johor.


Modern statistics on Rakyat Johor

Johor’s importance is not only confined to history; as the fifth largest state in the nation (with its 10 districts covering slightly more than 19,000 square kilometres out of 330,000), Johor has a population of 3.79 million people (or approximately 12% of Malaysians – the second largest population in  the country), with an average annual population growth rate of 0.5%.


From this population, the labour force stands at 1.84 million, where 1.78 million people are employed (with an estimated Labour Force Participation Rates @ LFPR of 70.4%), and 65,000 are unemployed (an unemployment rate of 3.5%). When considered along gender lines, the entire population of Johor is almost equally spread between 1.98 million males and 1.81 million females; however, the distribution of workers is not comparable, with a female LFPR of 51.0% compared to a male LFPR of 87.8%.


The people of the state are well served when it comes to further education, as Johor is home to:

  • three national universities (University of Technology Malaysia @UTM; MARA University of Technology @ UiTM; and Universiti Tun Hussein Onn Malaysia @ UTHM);
  • EduCity Iskandar, Asia’s first multi-campus education city (partnered with Newcastle University Medicine Malaysia; Netherlands Maritime Institute of Technology; University of Southampton Malaysia; Multimedia University; University of Reading Malaysia; Kolej MDIS Malaysia; Raffles University; Marlborough College Malaysia; and Raffles American School);
  • The Pagoh Education Hub (consisting of UTM; UTHM; the International Islamic University Malaysia @ IIUM; and the Tun Syed Nasir Syed Ismail Polytechnic @ PTSN); and
  • Several major technical institutions (Johor Skills Development Centre; Sultan Ibrahim Polytechnic; Advanced Technology Training Centre Batu Pahat; the High National Youth Skill Training Institute Johor; the Pasir Gudang Industrial Training Institute; the MARA Skills Institute Johor Bahru; and the Tangkak Industrial Training Institute).


Moreover, there are many facilities dedicated to keeping the population’s health up, in the form of 45 hospitals (12 government hospitals and 33 private ones) and 459 other clinics (consisting of normal clinics as well as rural, dental, and maternal/childcare specialists) throughout Johor.


An economic powerhouse even up till now

Johor has always been an important gateway for the country, and every administration since time immemorial has built more and more infrastructure projects to support and enhance this. Perhaps the most important infrastructure buildings that have been built in Johor are the ones that connect to Singapore: the Johor–Singapore Causeway (1924) railway/bridge, and the Tuas Second Link bridge (1998).


Over the decades of the Twentieth and early Twenty-First Centuries, the state has gone on to develop an international airport (Senai), two domestic airports (Kluang and Mersing), and three ports (Pasir Gudang Port, Tanjung Pelepas Port, and Tanjung Langsat Port). These were eventually joined by game-changing initiatives such as the Johor Bahru-Singapore Rapid Transit System (RTS) project and Iskandar Malaysia, the nation’s first economic region established to take advantage of its prosperous location and ecosystem.


Indeed, along with the East Coast Economic Region (ECER) – formed in 2007 to accelerate economic growth and ensure equitable distribution of wealth across the country, and which covers the states of Kelantan, Terengganu, and Pahang in addition to Johor’s Mersing district – the state is the only one in Malaysia to house two economic corridors at the same time.


Indeed, the significance of Johor’s contribution to the national coffers is borne out by the fact that the state is the fourth largest contributor (at 9.59%) of the country’s 2020 Gross Domestic Product (GDP), i.e. RM135.83 billion out of RM1.42 trillion. The industries carried out in Johor that contribute towards these figures are: Agriculture/Forestry and Fishery; Mining and Quarrying; Manufacturing; Construction; and Services.


It was against this dynamic backdrop that the state decided to consolidate its efforts into a one-stop centre for investors to take advantage of various business opportunities locally through the establishment of the Johor State Investment Centre (JSIC) in August 2004, which has been re-branded as Invest Johor from November 2019. This article will serve as an introductory piece for a series of articles regarding the corporation, both in terms of initiatives offered as well as testimonials from firms that have invested in Johor and reaped the rewards from it.




Johor @ a Glance
Area 19,166 km²
  • Total
3.79 million
  • Males
1.98 million
  • Females
1.81 million
  • Average Annual Population Growth Rate
Life Expectancy
  • Males
72.8 years
  • Females
78.1 years
Gross Domestic Product (GDP)
  • GDP at constant 2015 prices
RM128,034 million*
  • Per capita at current prices
  • Labour Force
1.84 million*
  • Employed
1.78 million*
  • Unemployed
  • Labour Force Participation Rates (LFPR)
  • Male
  • Female
  • Unemployment Rate
  • Hospitals
  • Government hospitals (12)
  • Private hospitals (33)
  • Clinics
  • Normal clinics
  • Rural clinics
    Dental clinics
  • Maternal/childcare specialist clinics

Source: Department of Statistics Malaysia (Estimates for 2021, except for *, 2020)/Department of Health Johor


Higher Education in Johor
  • Three national universities
  • University of Technology Malaysia (UTM)
  • MARA University of Technology (UiTM)
  • Universiti Tun Hussein Onn Malaysia (UTHM)
  • EduCity Iskandar, Asia’s first multi-campus education city
  • Newcastle University Medicine Malaysia
  • Netherlands Maritime Institute of Technology
  • University of Southampton Malaysia
  • Multimedia University
  • University of Reading Malaysia
  • Kolej MDIS Malaysia
  • Raffles University
  • Marlborough College Malaysia
  • Raffles American School
  • The Pagoh Education Hub
  • University of Technology Malaysia (UTM)
  • Universiti Tun Hussein Onn Malaysia (UTHM)
  • International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM)
  • Tun Syed Nasir Syed Ismail Polytechnic @ PTSN)
  • Major technical institutions
  • Johor Skills Development Centre
  • Sultan Ibrahim Polytechnic
  • Batu Pahat Advanced Technology Training Centre 
  • High National Youth Skill Training Institute Johor
  • Pasir Gudang Industrial Training Institute
  • MARA Skills Institute Johor Bahru
  • Tangkak Industrial Training Institute)

Source: Invest Johor


Johor Economic Statistics
Size of Contribution towards National Gross Domestic Product (GDP) Fourth largest contributor
Percentage of Contribution 9.59%
GDP 2020: Malaysia RM1.42 trillion
GDP 2020: Johor RM135.83 billion

Source: Department of Statistics Malaysia/Wikipedia

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