Malaysia's fertility rate at its lowest in 40 years, says Statistics Dept

PETALING JAYA: Malaysia saw fewer babies born last year as the country experienced its lowest fertility rate in four decades, says the Statistics Department.

Chief statistician Datuk Seri Dr Mohd Uzir Mahidin (pic) said the country’s total fertility rate (TFR) among women of reproductive age fell to 1.7 babies last year, compared to 1.8 babies the previous year.

“The 2020 fertility rate was the lowest in four decades. In 1970, the rate was 4.9 children per woman.

“Since 2013, Malaysia’s fertility rate has been below the United Nations Statistics Division’s replacement level of 2.1 babies,” he said in a statement on Thursday (Oct 14) following the release of "Vital Statistics, Malaysia 2021" published by the department.

Replacement level is the fertility rate needed to keep the population stable from generation to generation.

TFR in a specific year is defined by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) as the total number of children who would be born to each woman if: she lived to the end of her child-bearing years; and gave birth to children in accordance with current age-specific fertility rates.

Dr Mohd Uzir said the country’s three major ethnic groups of Malays, Chinese and Indians all saw a decline in TFR last year.

“The TFR for bumiputras declined from 2.6 babies to 2.2 babies. For the Chinese, it fell from 1.5 babies to 1.0 babies, and among Indians, 1.7 babies to 1.2 babies in 2020.

“The TFR for Chinese and Indians have been below the replacement level since 2003 and 2005 respectively,” he added.

The three most fertile states and territories last year were Terengganu (2.9 babies), Putrajaya (2.8 babies) and Kelantan (2.7 babies).

They are the only states in Malaysia to record TFR above the replacement level.

Dr Mohd Uzir said the falling fertility rate in Malaysia is a trend seen in other countries such as Britain (1.7 babies), the United States (1.7 babies), Japan (1.4 babies), Indonesia (2.3 babies) and Singapore (1.1 babies).

The number of live births in 2020 was 470,195, the country's lowest in over a decade, he added.

“This is a decrease of 3.6% compared to 487,957 in 2019.

“The decline in the number of live births has also contributed to the decline in Crude Birth Rate (CBR) from 15.0 births per thousand population in 2019 to 14.4 in 2020,” he said.

Commenting on the falling trend in births, Dr Mohd Uzir said the decline is contributed to by “the increase in women's level of education and participation in the labour force.”

“In addition, factors such as the increase in average age of first marriage, urbanisation, lifestyle changes, economic status and increased use of family planning methods also contribute to the declining trend of births,” said the chief statistician.

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