Low birth rate in Malaysia due to change in women's lifestyle

28 Oct 2022 12:54pm
Both husband and wife should carry the responsibility of family planning

photo from file
Both husband and wife should carry the responsibility of family planning photo from file

The Malaysia Statistics Department recently disclosed that the birth rate in Malaysia has declined 6.7 per cent in 2021 from 2020.

In 2021, the number of birth rate recorded was 439,744 births while there were 471,504 births in 2020 - which the Statistics Department said was the highest decrease in a decade.

With the declining fertility rate and Malaysia fast becoming an ageing nation, this has sparked concern. But what could be the primary cause for the decline in fertility rate?

Obstetrics and Gynaecology (O&G) Consultant Datuk Dr Harlina Halizah Siraj said the core reasons are the change in lifestyle. Predominantly, it's due to women being more educated and their participation in the work force.

“In the past, during our ancestors within 70 years prior, the main role of women was to reproduce and tie a knot immediately after reaching maturity.

“However if we compare to the present, women typically start to bear children in their 20s. Not to mention, women now are more involved in the workforce compared to before.

“With that being said, women are becoming more careful and more aware of family planning,” she said.

The change in women’s lifestyle is not just in Malaysia, but around the world.

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Moreover, compared to five decades prior, the Total Fertility Ratio (TFR) revealed a significant fallout as of 2021.

TFR is an indicator used to estimate the average number of children a woman would have over her childbearing age.

Statistically, Dr Harlina shared the studies by Associate Professor Dr Tey Nai Peng of Universiti Malaya about TFR in Malaysia were at below-replacement level since 2012.

He also revealed for the dominant ethnicity in 2018, Malay’s TFR was at 2.4 which was twice compared to Chinese and Indians.

“Following the demographic segmentation, our TFR in Malaysia should be 2.1 which I assumed currently is at 1.7, which is also below replacement rate. Which means a mother gave birth to two kids who will then replace their parents.

“This is where the population becomes static," she said.

The involvement in family planning was always considered as a ‘female matter’ but building a family actually takes two to tango.

Thus, she suggested in order to turn this situation around, it was to negotiate with educated women to produce more children.

Former deputy minister in the prime minister’s department Fuziah Salleh also suggested women should be provided accessibility of family planning methods.

“By giving them the access to family planning methods, it gave them choices over the decision on child bearing,” she said.

She shared her view on the declining birth rates in Malaysia due to the changing of women’s roles in the current world.

“When women in the past used to be full time housewives.

“But as we can see now the world has evolved when currently there are more women balancing their role in between careers and also at home,” she said.