KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysians should have more children - ideally three or four in a family, to address the projected shrinking population, says Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Rohani Abdul Karim (pic).
She said the average fertility rate of Malaysians in 2012 was 2.1 children but this was expected to drop to 1.91 children in 2020, according to the United Nations’ projection for Malaysia.
Rohani said the rate of 2.1 children was merely enough to replace their parents in the national population.
“We have done programmes to inform married couples that an ideal family should have three to four kids, based on our research.
“But 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 Monday.
Rohani said couples also had children according to how much they can afford from their income.
She was answering a supplementary question from Dr Azman Ismail (PKR –Kuala Kedah) who raised the issue of the shrinking population in Malaysia, especially among the Chinese and Indian communities.
Rohani said by 2035, Malaysia was expected to have an aging population whereby 15% of the people would be aged 60 and above.
The country’s population is projected to grow to 32 million by 2020, based on the current birth rate, she said.
“We have implemented various initiatives to encourage couples to have more children.
“This includes introducing family-friendly work arrangements to remind couples to avoid being too caught up in striving for a better quality of living but to think about having children for the long term future of the country,” she said, adding that fertility clinics were also set up to help couples conceive.
Rohani said in 2012, Malays recorded a high fertility rate of 2.6 children, while Chinese recorded 1.6 and Indians 1.5.
“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,” she said.
When Datuk Noraini Ahmad (BN – Parit Sulong) pointed out that some couples were fertile but did not want many children, Rohani said many couples delayed their marriages and wanted to start their families later in life.
“We need to find family-friendly approaches to strike a balance between having a career and for us to contribute to the nation’s population,” she said.
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