KUALA LUMPUR, May 25 — Putrajaya today called on Malaysians to reverse the trend of declining population growth by having more children, following the projected dip in the country’s birthrate once it hits developed nation status in five years’ time.
Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Rohani Abdul Karim said the United Nations has projected that Malaysia’s national fertility rate will fall to 1.91 children per household by 2020, lower than the 2012 fertility rate of 2.1 children.
“That is why the ministry encourages couples not to be so focussed on quality of life, but to also have children for the long-term benefit of the country,” she told Parliament during question time.
Based on the 2012 fertility rate, Rohani said Malaysia’s population is estimated to reach 32 million in the next five years.
She, however, stressed that the projected slowdown in population growth would mean that Malaysia will fall into the category of an elderly nation as 15 per cent of the total population would be aged 65 years or older.
The minister noted that one of the reasons for the falling birthrate is that more women choose to pursue their education and careers first, making it the norm for them to marry later.
This means that they will start families later and also face issues with childcare due to their responsibilities at work, she added.
To encourage working couples in the civil service to have more children, Rohani said the federal government has more than doubled paternity leave to seven days, extended maternity leave to 90 days and allows flexible working hours so parents have more time with their children, among other things.
The minister added that Putrajaya is considering various options such as the baby bonus scheme offered in Singapore and monthly allowances given to each child as practiced by Sweden.
“We have various programmes to raise awareness (on the need to boost the fertility rate), including explaining that the ideal family size is between three and four children.
“But we cannot force people. We inform and encourage, but it is up to couples to decide how many children they think is best,” she said.