Malaysian Women Are Having Fewer Children Than They’d Like

Generally, the desire for children among married women is high. (Based on the MPFS-5 survey, only 8.4% of married women aged between 15—49 were childless in 2014). Breaking down the age groups of married women, the desire for the number of children ranges between 3 to 4 children, which is well above the replacement level of 2.1. However, the actual number of children given birth is about 2 to 3 per women at the end of her fertile lifetime. (In 2014, married women in Malaysia desire, on average, 3.9 children, but have only 2.8 children on average). Despite high desire for children, families are facing challenges in fulfilling their desire in reality.

Average Desired and Actual Number of Children, Malaysia (2014)

Source: MPFS-5

Financial factor is the key barrier against having more children, but only up to a certain point

The decisions about having children for most married couples are primarily affected by the cost of raising children. (Based on MPFS-5 conducted in 2014, 44% of married women cited ‘family financials’ as a reason for not wanting more children, followed by ‘health problems’ at 28%) About 65% of marrieds who have 0 to 2 children (aged between 15—39) responded that they would have more children if financial factors were not an issue. However, financial factors are more of a factor for families who are considering having their first and second child. As the number of children increases, financial concerns become less of a factor.

Financial Motivation for Having More Children based on Number of Existing Children

Source: Population survey conducted under this study (2017) Note: Respondents who are married, aged 15—39, with 0 to 2 children, n=555

Outside of financial factor, reasons for not wanting more children are mixed

While a large majority of Malaysians believe that parenthood brings them happiness (about 80% believe so), having a larger number of children does not necessarily translate to the same level of happiness (only 60% believe that more children equals more happiness).

The study’s survey also revealed that, among marrieds who have 0 to 2 children who do not want any more children (aged between 15—39), slightly less than 1/3 of believe that they are not prepared to handle more children,
whereas slightly more than 1/3 believe that having more children will have a negative impact on their current lifestyle, which they are not prepared to sacrifice.

Motivations Towards Having Children

Source: Population survey conducted under this study (2017), n=3,044

Prevalence of Confidence and Lifestyle Factors in Decision Making to Have More Children

Source: Population survey conducted under this study (2017), n=3,044 Study’s Survey (2017) Note: Respondents who are married, aged 15—39, with 0 to 2 children, and do not want more children, n=197

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