PETALING JAYA: Malaysia’s low fertility rate is being driven by delayed marriages and the prioritisation of careers, say experts.
“With rising education and opportunities, the cost for women to have children is much higher and many working women choose to forego childbearing without adequate support,” said Universiti Malaya’s Lai Siow Li.
The senior lecturer from the faculty of business and economics was commenting on the declining fertility rate.
The fertility rate in 2022 has reached its lowest in five decades, with 1.6 children for every woman aged 15-49 years compared with 1.7 children in 2021.
According to the statistics department, the figure falls below the replacement rate of 2.1 children per family, which Lai said would lead towards an ageing workforce and a dependency on foreign labour.
Balancing careers and motherhood
Fertility specialist Aldrin Lie, of TMC Fertility, said the government could consider tax incentives for women in the workforce who have children in a bid to boost fertility rates.
“So this could motivate them to have children when they are much younger,” he said.
Center for Market Education CEO Carmelo Ferlito said employers could do their part by creating a more flexible work environment for employees looking to start a family.
“The government should work with the Malaysian Employers Federation to create a regulatory framework that allows for flexible working hours and work-from-home arrangements.”
Meanwhile, Geoffrey Williams of the Malaysia University of Science and Technology said the fertility rate would likely continue to drop.
However, he said this is not necessarily an issue, as having smaller families would allow people to focus their resources on the children they have.