Youths realistic about marriage

PETALING JAYA: More youth are opting to stay single while those open to marriage prefer to take the plunge at an older age and are not keen on big families.

Also, a significant number of young adults do not see marriage as a form of happiness, a nationwide survey by Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR) has found.

The varsity’s Tun Tan Cheng Lock Centre for Social and Policy Studies chairman Dr Chin Yee Mun (pic) said close to two-thirds of the respondents believe singlehood gives them more freedom in life and marriage increases one’s financial commitment.

“Youth today have a more realistic view of marriage.

“A common perspective is that marriage is a financial burden and something they will avoid if they can,” Chin said in an interview.

According to the survey published on July 1, less than half of Malaysian youth plan to get married and have families.

From a total of 485 respondents aged between 18 and 35, only 41.8% said they plan to marry.

Almost a quarter expressed reluctance, whereas another 34.5% were undecided. Most of the respondents were students from various public and private varsities while some were working individuals.

“A whopping 41.1% said they do not subscribe to the idea that marriage will lead to happiness and another 30% are unsure that marriage will even bring happiness,” Chin said.

He added that 10.7% of them are sceptical and reject the idea of marriage.

The majority of the respondents (72%) said they feel the ideal age to get married is between 26 and 30.

However, 42.9% of the respondents disagree with the traditional view that people should marry at a younger age.

Titled “More Malaysian Youth Likely to Shun Marriage, Bigger Families”, the survey also found that more than half of the respondents either do not want children (14.5%) or are unsure (38.2%). Only 47.3% want kids.

Chin said although 61.7% of youth do not feel that marriage decreases the quality of their life, many have reservations when it comes to family planning.

Half of the respondents said two children are enough.

Between 79.7% and 90.9% said that added responsibilities, the ability to maintain a good standard of living and to cope with rising costs, and life satisfaction are important considerations when planning a family.

“In other words, to counter the high cost of living and ensure their happiness and well-being, one might consider having fewer children,” Chin said.

The survey data is consistent with the findings of the Statistics Department which have shown that mothers having children between 35 and 44 years old increased in 2018 and 2019 while those having children between the age of 20 and 34 gradually declined in the same period.

The department’s data also showed that in 2019, the crude birth rate for Malaysia was 15 births per thousand population, having gradually decreased from 32.8 births per thousand population in 1971.

The fertility rate per woman has been on a downward trend since 1970 from 4.9 babies per woman to 1.9 in 2017, and 1.8 in 2018.

“As of 2019, the total fertility rate was fewer than 1.8 babies per woman, having dropped below the replacement level of 2.1 babies.

“Malaysia may become an ageing nation by 2030, with people aged 60 years and above surpassing 15% of the population.

“This will affect the economy because we will have less productive manpower,” Chin said.

He added that the post-modernist view of marriage and a cultural shift could be the result of societal developments over the years.

“Perspectives and values have changed.

“Marriage was very much encouraged in the past but now, it is viewed as not the most ideal trajectory in one’s life, with many questioning whether it will even bring them happiness.

“Some may not be keen on marriage because of experiences with their own families,” he said.

Insurance agent Simon Soon Poh Kheng, 26, said he would like to marry someday but it is not a priority.

“Marriage is a long-life commitment and financial issues will arise when couples start living together and having children.

“I will only start planning for marriage when I am financially stable,” he said.

Tan Zhen Ny, 26, prefers focusing on her career and completing her professional accountancy exams before thinking of marriage.

She feels 30 would be the “ideal” age for her to marry as by then, she would be more mature in her thinking and better equipped financially to support her family.

Lee Jun Hong, 24, said he is “okay” to not get married.

“There are too many things that need to be considered, such as having a sound financial foundation and owning a house and car.

“Today’s high cost of living means that a married couple would both have to work and if there are kids, will you have enough time to spend with them?” said Lee, a recent engineering graduate.

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