Childless couples on the rise

GEORGE TOWN: Once the nuptials are over, the focus often shifts towards starting a family –but for many, this does not feel like a feasible option.

Muhammad Shahrizul Muiz, 30, who got married a few months ago, said he would wait a while before he has kids.

“This is solely because of economic reasons. We just got married this year, and despite it being a simple ceremony, it still cost us a chunk of money.

“We bought a house and a car as well, and the last thing we should do is bring a child into the mix without being financially stable.

“We need to recover from the expenses and save some money.

“When you have a child, you need to think about healthcare. You need to have an emergency fund if the baby is not well, you cannot just depend on insurance,” he added.

Muhammad Shahrizul, who works as a special officer, said while he would be good with waiting a few years, he and his wife have considered trying after a year.

“We will revisit it after a year as my wife is an engineer, and I do not want her to sacrifice her career to have a child.

“We are on the same page where raising a child is concerned and only want one. The goal is to provide the best for the child,” he said.

Muhammad Shahrizul said he and his wife have been lucky in that they have not faced any pressure from their families.

“Long gone are the days when people speak of carrying one’s family name. It is archaic, and a child does not deserve that sort of pressure.

“It is not about the name but about raising the child well.

“I have no expectations, and when we have a child, there will be no burden to care for us.

“We will start a retirement fund and ensure we can care for ourselves,” he said.

Josephine Das, 33, said she and her husband do not plan on having children.

“While finances are not tight, having children is not easy and would mean making certain career choices and reducing our monthly income.

“We live a nice lifestyle, not lavish by any means, but my husband is Italian and we visit his family every year.

“His parents are old and making them travel to see us would be unfair.

“That takes up quite a bit of our savings, especially with the currency exchange. Travelling to see them would not be possible with children,” she said.

Das said growing up, she remembered reading that raising a child would cost a million ringgit from birth to adulthood, including education.

“That is a serious commitment and would require sturdy incomes. If I were a parent, I would want to stay home and nurture my child. It does not seem like something I can juggle or work out,” she said.

Das said her family has been understanding, and her husband said he has never felt the need for a child to carry on the family name.

“While we are both still young, we do not see our minds changing,” she said.

She shared that when they are older, they will have enough savings to get domestic help if needed and are comfortable with the idea of going into assisted living if they are ill.

“There is no need to have a child just to care for us when we are old,” she added.

Penang Institute executive director Datuk Dr Ooi Kee Beng said it is a mathematical certainty that the population will decline if people do not have babies.

“There is too much stress on the younger generation. It is not fun being young as they have so many worries.

“There is pessimism coupled with impatience and intolerance from the various stresses in life.

“Environmental problems, the economy and global issues contribute to young couples holding off on having children, and then it becomes too late.

“The Covid-19 pandemic added to it as well,” he said.

Ooi said the urban educated tend to think about the opportunities or lack thereof for their children in the future.

“When you think of what the government can do, it is usually just monetary relief as everything costs money, but there is more to it.

“They need to build up a childcare system. They have to be pro-feminism and offer childcare because one has to think of the condition of the woman.

“The woman has to put her life, career and dreams on hold when having a child,” he said.

Ooi said there is no patience or energy to take on such a project because having children is a lifelong commitment; it never ends.

“Naturally, people want to have kids, but you need to have the luxury of being stress-free.

“Which is why I can understand those who do not want kids now and have decided to wait it out,” he said.

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