THE ECONOMY is not so good right now, how are we supposed to have more children?
This is the question posed by some Chinese women in Ipoh interviewed by MetroPerak on news about the drastic drop in the fertility rate among their demographic.
Other than the difficult economic climate, some also see the declining birth rate as a result of a higher awareness for the need of family planning in modern society.
Advertising and Promotions Assistant Manager Jerri Chan said raising children is getting more expensive.
Apart from the rising cost of living and the economy, she also said it is because they are spending more on new, safer services and treatments that were not available 50 years ago.
“From the moment you give birth, that could easily cost you RM8,000 to RM10,000 if you go for caesarean sections, or a little less than RM5,000 for natural birth, in private hospitals.
“People could choose to give birth in public hospitals instead, but regardless, you will still need to spend a few hundred ringgit there depending on birth complications,” she told MetroPerak.
It was reported in The Star that the fertility rate of Chinese women in Malaysia fell significantly from an average of 7.4 children in 1957 to just 1.4 last year.
According to the Department of Statistics, this declining rate will see the Chinese population drop to less than 20% in 2030, which is a stark difference to pre-Independence days when the Chinese made up as much as 37.4% of the country’s population.
Chan, who is a mother of two, said it was her dream to have three or four children, but she has to settle with only two now due to harsh economic realities.
She added that Chinese women are less likely to give birth to more children now because family planning is very important when it comes to those who are working.
“I believe women are becoming more independent nowadays, and they want to focus on career advancement.
“When they are driven by the need to be successful, they don’t think they are capable of looking after so many children.
“That’s why they are happy with only one or two, sometimes even none,” she said.
If the government were to implement policies to encourage families to have more children, Chan said equal educational support to all races would be a good way to start.
“From what I hear, people are eager to settle down in Australia, since they don’t feel worried about starting large families because the government there subsidises their educational costs.
“Other than that, selling baby products with zero taxes here in supermarkets and grocery stores would also be a good idea,” she said.
Leasing executive Angel Wong, 30, who is soon to be married, thinks most urban Chinese women are most likely raised to be mindful of family planning.
“In my case, I’m now planning with my fiance on how to make our finances work when we have children, because most likely I’m going to be a stay-at-home mother.
“My parents have sort of hinted that they might not be able to take care of grandchildren all the time.
“With a single paycheck supporting the family for a while, I think having two children is most ideal,” she said, adding that one child would be lonely, while three was a crowd.
Wong stressed that it is important to plan one’s finances properly before having children, because they are a form of long-term “investment.”
If the government wants to encourage families to have more children, Wong also feels that subsiding educational costs is the right step.
“For short-term forms of encouragement, they could probably give out one-time financial assistance to families.
“Around RM5,000 would be good, because at least that covers the cost of labour and delivery in hospitals,” she said.
Like Chan and Wong, sales assistant Lily Cho, 36, said two children is enough for her because the current economic situation is not conducive to having a big family.
“Everything requires money, and things are only getting more and more expensive nowadays.
“Looking after children requires so much more from us financially, so it’s only natural that we feel we can provide better for our children if there aren’t so many of them,” said the mother of one, who is currently seven months pregnant with her second child.
However, beauty adviser Penny Loh, 30, who is also pregnant with her second child at the moment, looks forward to having three children.
“I think three is just nice, and since my husband and I are working, we think we can cope with looking after them.
“No doubt, money is a problem for most married couples when they want to start a family, but we are saving up for our future, and we are confident that we have enough,” she said.
Loh also thinks it is better to have children now when both she and her husband are still capable of earning money.