Women, Family, and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Rohani Abdul Karim said on 25 May that Malaysians should have more babies to address the estimated declining population
Rohani said according to the United Nations, Malaysians should ideally have three or four children per family, but the average fertility rate of Malaysians was 2.1 children in 2012, with the figure expected to drop to 1.91 children in 2020 according to The Star
She added the rate of 2.1 children was merely enough to replace their parents in the national population.
At prevailing rates, Malaysia’s population in the year 2020 will be 32 million, she said. This may not hit the target of set by Vision 2020 architect ex-premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad who envisioned 70 million Malaysians by the year 2100.
Malaysia is also expected to be an aging population by 2035, where 15% will be above the age of 60.nst.com.my
“That is why the ministry encourages couples not to be so focused on quality of life, but to also have children for the long-term benefit of the country,” says Rohani.
The minister noted that one of the reasons for the falling birthrate is that more women choose to pursue their education and careers first, making it the norm for them to marry later. This causes families to start later and face issues with childcare due to their responsibilities at work, she added.malaysiandigest.com
"The current trend now is to have two children or less. However, we cannot force couples to have children as the decision depends on them,” she told the Dewan Rakyat during question time on 25 May. Rohani said couples also had children according to how much they can afford from their income.thestar.com.my
“We have various programmes to raise awareness (on the need to boost the fertility rate), including explaining that the ideal family size is between three and four children.themalaymailonline.com
She was answering a question from PKR Kuala Kedah Dr Azman Ismail who raised the issue of the shrinking population in Malaysia, especially among the Chinese and Indian communities
Rohani said in 2012, Malays recorded a high fertility rate of 2.6 children, while Chinese recorded 1.6 and Indians 1.5.thestar.com.my
“The ministry does not have a target for fertility rate based on race. But we are very concerned on the decrease in the national average fertility rate,” Rohani said.nst.com.my
Malaysians have gone on to chastise Rohani's statement on reducing their focus on the quality of life, as young couples do not have a stable job yet nor will they be able to bear the high cost of living
"So, have lots of children and give them a lesser quality of life? And don't complain about GST on diapers," says Marina Mahathir on her Facebook.
"Who cares about how expensive it is to raise a child in this day and age, not to mention the wish of many young people to find their footing in their careers before opting to get married. Suggesting we sacrifice the quality of life in order to produce more children is astonishing when considering the times we live in.
Many families are finding it difficult to keep their heads above the poverty line, what with rising prices and our slow economy. These couples would struggle day to day not only to feed another mouth, but to pay for daycare and other necessities. We want the best for our children, and that means being able to provide for them.
A declining birth rate is a worrying phenomenon. However, this is not how we can get started with encouraging people to raise larger families. It requires a sufficient support system, and we’re not talking about cash handouts, but a liveable minimum wage, greater support for mothers, perhaps even a free education system using the profits from the GST," says writer Scott Ng.