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Too expensive to start a family these days, say experts

PETALING JAYA: It is just too expensive to start a family these days, say experts, citing it as one of the reasons for the declining fertility rate among Malaysian Chinese.

Deputy Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datin Paduka Chew Mei Fun said women were now more highly educated and had rewarding careers, leading to later marriages.

“Nowadays, people are looking for quality over quantity.

“People want to ensure that they can provide their children with good education and a quality lifestyle,” she said.

She added that a direct impact of the lower birth rate would be an ageing society.

“Family planning is not necessarily about having fewer kids.

“It’s about managing the family structure based on income and the situation so that you do not have more children than you can afford,” she added.

Her ministry, said Chew, was working hard to provide better childcare services for working mothers as well as making such facilities more accessible.

“We must address the issue in a holistic way to ensure the safety of the children.

“We are also looking at bringing down the cost of childcare,” she added.

Asli Centre for Public Policy Studies chairman Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam said generally speaking, those living in urban areas had fewer babies.

“This is because they want their kids to have a ‘better deal’.

“Generally, urban populations anticipate a higher financial burden,” he said.

However, he said, racial policies might also have led to the Chinese – and also the Indian community – having fewer children.

“They may feel that there is a shortage of opportunities such as scholarships, which could lead to them not being confident about having many children,” he added.

Edward Neoh Chuan Tat, 50, an adviser for Jia Zong, an association of parents from Chinese schools, said he believed that Chinese families were having fewer children because of the cost of raising them, specifically education.

He said this was especially the case for middle-class Chinese families.

“The Chinese are always concerned about education. It doesn’t come very easy for them. Education is very expensive,” he said.

Neoh felt that more government support for education, especially in Chinese vernacular schools, would alleviate the families’ concerns about education costs and encourage them to have more children.