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Monday, July 25, 2016

A Chinese dilemma - low birth rate

Racial statistics in 2015
According to the latest figures of the Statistics Department, the country's population rises to 31.7 million in 2016, up by half a million from last year's. Of this, bumiputras make up 68.6% (21,746,200), followed by the Chinese at 23.4% (7,417,800) and the Indians at a mere 7% (2,219,000).

While the ethnic Chinese population is on the rise, and has soared past the 7 million mark, birth rate among Chinese Malaysians remains relatively low, resulting in declining percentages over the years.

Statistics show that Malay and bumi birth rate is also moderating, but the trend began to surface only after 2000 while that of Chinese Malaysians saw drastic drops as early as in the 1980s, with no indication of reversal any time soon.

On average a Malay woman gave birth to 2.6 children last year, and Chinese women could only manage 1.4.

If this trend is not arrested and reversed soon, given the marked ageing phenomenon among Chinese Malaysians, it is a matter of time the population will see a negative growth, meaning more deaths than births among the Chinese. The percentage of Chinese population may slip from the current 23% to only about 18% or even lower another three or four decades down the road.

Although Chinese Malaysians are already a minority group in the country, with foreign migrants outnumbering Chinese Malaysians in the years to come, the community's fate in the future is way beyond our imagination.

As a matter of fact, dwindling birth rate is not an exclusive phenomenon among Chinese Malaysians only. The same trend is seen everywhere across the planet, thanks to generally better education, higher incomes, improved feminism awareness, double-salary urban families, late marriages and a host of other factors.

But among Chinese Malaysians, this is accentuated by realistic economic pressure arising from policy discrepancies such as exorbitant education fees, among others. As a consequence, many have opted to give birth to fewer children or none at all.

Against the backdrop of falling birth rate among Chinese Malaysians as well as the country's one-man one-vote electoral system and cruel political reality, this will invariably erode the community's rights in a number of fields such as politics, economy and education, and will have far-fetching effects on the community's grip in politics and economic domination.

Chinese Malaysians must give birth to at least three children each in order to make up the shortfall in population ratio. Childbirth is no longer a personal option or problem, but rather a critical event that will shape the community's destiny in future.

As such, it is now time for Chinese-predominant political parties in the country to seriously look into this issue and explore ways collectively to overcome the dilemma.

The rights of the country's Chinese community can only be assured if young Chinese Malaysians are encouraged to give birth to more children in a bid to maintain an equilibrium in childbirth rates among the ethnic communities.

Translated by Dominic Loh (Sin Chew Daily)

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