FEBRUARY 16 — 2015 statistics show that there were a little more than six million ethnic Chinese in Malaysia, taking up a mere 21.4 per cent of the country's total population, a 2.6 percentage point drop from the 24 per cent two years earlier.
If this trend is allowed to continue, the percentage of Chinese Malaysians will slip below the 20 per cent mark by 2030, to 19.6 per cent, fewer in number than legal and illegal migrant workers in the country.
The drastic fall of the percentage of Chinese Malaysian population could be attributed to the declining birth rate from 7.4 children for each woman in 1957 to only 1.4 today. In the meantime, the population of Malays and bumiputras have been rising fast.
Giving birth to fewer children has become a trend among modern Chinese Malaysians due to a wide range of environmental and personal factors, including more women in the job market, choice of not having babies, escalating living cost and availability of contraceptive methods, among others. Meanwhile, individuals' economic conditions and family concepts have also changed and this has affected individuals' will to have children.
Modern Chinese Malaysians yearn for better quality of living, are married late and are less emphatic on having children to ensure their old-age well-being will be taken care of in future. Moreover, most married women in urban areas have to go out and work in the face of rising cost of living, making them less receptive to having children.
On top of this, many talented Chinese Malaysians have found greener pastures overseas, resulting in a sharp fall in their population. A World Bank study several years ago pointed out that the problem of brain drain among Chinese Malaysians has become increasingly serious, with almost a million of them emigrating up till 2010, 57 per cent of whom ending up in neighbouring Singapore.
Those leaving the country due to career advancement, political factors or other reasons are predominantly Chinese. DAP's MP for Serdang Ong Kian Ming disclosed recently that at least 7,828 Malaysians abandoned their citizenships during the past two years, 96.7 per cent of them Chinese.
In a multiracial country where the political right and power of an ethnic community is very much tied to its sheer number or percentage, it is natural that the political power of Chinese Malaysians will be further eroded given their dwindling population.
The local Chinese associations and political parties have sensed the severity of this issue and have initiated campaigns to urge Chinese Malaysians to have more children although the result so far has been not very encouraging. This is because many parents are still concerned about the exorbitant cost involved in raising and educating the children and are therefore less inspired to give birth to more.
We can see from here that other than offering cash rewards to encourage people to have more children, it is equally important for us to lure our talented people to come back and serve the country. — Sin Chew Daily
* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail Online.