MARRIAGE has a far-reaching effect on the country’s national productivity through its influence on fertility rate and the dependency ratio. In Malaysia, the population is projected to increase from 28.6 million in 2010 to 41.5 million in 2040. As it now stands, our country’s population is 32.6 million.
Within the population, the younger age group (0-14 years) would see a drop from 27.4 per cent in 2010 to 18.6 per cent in 2040 due a to lower fertility rate. For the working group aged 15-64 years, the population growth from 2010 to 2020 is estimated to grow – but from 2030 onwards, the rate would fall.Marriage vital in determining future working populationWithin the population, the younger age group (0-14 years) would see a drop from 27.4 per cent in 2010 to 18.6 per cent in 2040 due a to lower fertility rate. For the working group aged 15-64 years, the population growth from 2010 to 2020 is estimated to grow – but from 2030 onwards, the rate would fall.
For the elderly group aged 65 years and above, the population growth will rise from 5 per cent in 2010 to 14.5 per cent in 2040.
Declining Fertility Rates
According to the Department of Statistics (DOSM), total fertility rate for women aged 15-49 years in Malaysia has dropped significantly from 4.9 babies in 1970 to 1.8 babies in 2018.
Within the Asian region, fertility rate is slowing based on the World Bank’s latest data – Philippines (2.6 babies), Indonesia (2.3), India (2.2), Vietnam (2.0), China (1.7), Thailand (1.5), Japan (1.4), Hong Kong (1.1), Singapore (1.1) and Korea (1.0).
A survey by the National Population and Family Development Board (LPPKN) in 2014 showed that the population estimate for the single individual stood at 9.7 million, of which 5.97 million were male while 3.70 million were female. Of the same total, 4.72 million were aged 30 years and above.
The same survey has shown 86.8 per cent of single individuals intend to get married, but were hindered by factors such as the following:
Financial problems – 56 per cent (Male) and 26 per cent (Female); Unsuitable candidates – 18.4 per cent (Male) and 35.7 per cent (Female); and Career-related reasons – 9.4 per cent (Male) and 18.1 per cent (Female).
Unprecedented Covid-19 Crises
The economic crisis triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic has caused the younger generation to lose jobs or have to face pay cuts. There is a possibility of a higher share of the younger generation becoming dependents in a family.
The fertility rate can also be affected by family planning. Due to unstable economic condition, some might shelve plans to have children. So, what are the policies that are marriage-and family-friendly which can be considered amid this challenging time?
Firstly, stable employment needs to be established for those who have low social protection and had experienced income shocks due to the Movement Control Order such as the self-employed. Therefore, comprehensive and sustainable job creation to utilise local talents should be one of the key focuses in the Economic Recovery Plan.
Secondly, direct assistance by cash transfers such as Bantuan Prihatin Nasional (BPN) should be extended as long as the crisis continues and targeted toward those who remain vulnerable.
Long-Term National Population Strategy
Next, learning by example, a birth rate adjustment programme by state, such as the one recently approved in Vietnam (until 2030) can be considered for Malaysia too, which can form part of a long-term National Population Strategy.
In Vietnam, the programme sets the target to increase the birth rate by 10 per cent in localities with low rates (less than 2 children per couple) and reduce the rate in localities with higher birth rates (more than 2.2 children per couple). Incentives such as lower income tax, assistance to pay for children’s tuition fees, for house rentals and social housing purchase are also provided.
Lastly, support for mothers who have to juggle between work and family should be provided as an encouragement for newlyweds to be more confident in starting a family, or for couples who plan to have more children.
Measures such as the implementation of seven-day paternity leave for the private sector should be discussed. Fiscal assistance for the Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) sector should also be given in a move to support parents who are unable to afford childcare fees, as well as parents who have begun returning to work.
This unprecedented Covid-19 crisis should signal us to be more forward-looking in terms of policy formulation.