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Analysis of Fertility in Malaysia

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It is possible to estimate the average number of children a woman will have during her childbearing years by calculating her fertility rate. Malaysia is currently experiencing a population crisis, as the fertility rate continues to fall. It is continuing to fall because of the fact that Malaysia is going to be a develop country and flourish the modern way of thinking; or in other words, the concept of modernization. According to Sharif et al. (2018), this situation will have implications for the age structure of the population, as the proportion of senior citizens will be higher than the proportion of children under the age of five. Malaysia’s population is expected to reach the status of an aging population by the year 2035.

Historically, prior to independence, Malaysia’s demographic situation was one of high natural population growth of 6.3 percent. Between 1958 and 1978, the total fertility rate fell from 6.3 births per woman to 4.0 births, with fertility declines observed in all major ethnic groups, including Malay, Chinese, and Indian. During this time period, the fertility rates for Malaysian women were 2.8 children per woman, for Chinese women they were 1.8 children per woman, and for Indian women they were 2.0 children per woman. Now, it has been reported that the fertility rate in Malaysia has decreased from 1.9 babies per woman aged between 15 and 49 in 2017 to 1.8 babies per woman aged between 15 and 49 in 2018. Hence, the fertility rate in Malaysia keeps declining more and more as the year goes by.

Based on the report made by Bernama (2019), the reduction corresponded to that seen in wealthy countries such as Australia (1.8 babies), the United Kingdom (1.8 babies), Canada (1.5 infants), Singapore (1.2 babies), and South Korea (1.1 babies). According to the fall in the birth rate, the average age at first birth increased by 0.1 year from 27.7 years in 2017 to 27.8 years in 2018, a trend that has maintained. In addition, Bernama (2019) also reported that increases in the average age of the mother at the time of her first birth indicate that the reproductive period is becoming significantly shorter. In the context of Malaysia, Kuala Terengganu district had the highest crude birth rate in 2018, with 30.5 births per 1,000 people, while Bagan Datuk, Perak had the lowest rate, with 2.9 births per 1,000 people, according to the Department of Statistics Malaysia.

Modernization and Fertility

Modernization theory is based on the idea that, in pre-modern times, human society was pretty much exclusively governed by ‘tradition’, in which fertility and mortality were high, and that, as a result of the significant economic changes brought about by industrialization, societies were forced to alter traditional institutions in order to become modern societies, in which fertility and mortality are low. For Malaysia, Peng (2020) analyzed that urbanization, strong economic expansion, a lowering infant mortality rate, greater educational attainment and female employment involvement, delaying marriage and childbirth, and increased contraception usage which are parts of modernization have all contributed to Malaysia’s dropping fertility.

When discussing about modernization, a strong economic expansion or growth needed to be discussed too. Kumaran et al. (2020) discussed that the lower the level of income, the higher the fertility rate, according to the relationship between economic growth and fertility. However, when economy rises or financial development advances, the fertility rate falls as higher-income households prioritize quality over quantity of children. Such as in Terengganu, a poor state in Malaysia, had high birth rates in Malaysia whereby 3.4 in 2017, while in Kuala Lumpur, a rich state, only had 1.5 fertility rate in the same year. The modernization theory proved that as most countries had gone through major transition, experienced changes in fertility rate.

As cited by Kumaran et al. (2020), White et al. (2008) disputed that there is a widespread belief that urbanization reduces fertility in urban regions This is due to the fact that urban housing is more expensive, and children are likely less value in household output in urban as opposed to rural locations. To prove this belief, (2021) stated the cost of living in Kuala Lumpur is around RM 3000 per month, compared to Kuala Terengganu which is almost RM 2000 per month. Henceforth, birth rates eventually fell in metropolitan areas such as Kuala Lumpur as the value of family life was decreased by industrial and urban life, reducing the urge for big families.

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Compared to women before independence, Malaysian women now are more involved in workforce. According to the Department of Statistic Malaysia, female in work participation in 2019 was 55.8 percent, an increase of 0.1 percent points from 2018. Female in work participation in the prime age range of 25 to 34 years old was 73 percent, 35 to 44 years old was 67.6 percent, and women aged 44 to 54 years old were 62 percent. With this statistic, it is showed that the women employment involvement is now greater than before Malaysia’s independence. How the employment involvement of women impacted fertility rate? According to Peng (2020), the anticipated increase in female workforce involvement as more women acquire access to tertiary education will reduce fertility numbers. Women either quit their employment for childbearing or avoid childbirth due to the incompatibility of modern sector jobs with mother obligations. Therefore, when there are secure statuses, wealth, education and financial these modern working women will avoid childbirth and helps lowering the fertility rate and by the time these women wanted to have child, they are unable to because of their biological state.

On the same note, delaying marriage due to personal preferences is one of many contributions to low fertility rate. According to sociologists, most young people today are delaying marriage in order to complete their studies and establish their jobs. This is especially noticeable among women. As cited by Kumaran et al. (2020), in 1999 Lagerlof investigated the influence of women’s education on fertility and economic growth and concludes that higher female education will most likely lead to lower fertility. The effect of female educational enrolment may cause a delay in childbirth because it can produce a disagreement about the length of education that transpired. Gender distribution of students at Malaysian public higher education institutions from 2012 to 2019. In 2019, there were around 291.53 thousand male students and 415.02 thousand female students enrolled in public higher education institutions which makes the female students is a lot more than male students. By that, more and more women are enrolling in tertiary education to secure promising jobs and future which takeaways more their age and biological clock to have a bigger family.

To sums things up, the theory of modernization is clearly one of many sources of low fertility issue. Society changed their mind-set to be more ‘modern’ and ‘develop’ as well as fight the tradition from the past. However, as the country develops, society will lose more and more human resources due to this theory. Plus, the country needs to welcome immigrants due to lack of human resources and other issues will come.

Significance of Fertility Rate

Why we need to know fertility rate? The need to know fertility rate among society is vital because of the government can estimate fertility rates helps for more effective and effective planning and resource allocation within a certain region. If a country’s persistent fertility rate is extremely high, it may need to create more schools or extend access to cheap child care. In the case of Malaysia, the government used this statistic such as fertility rate to use as main input for the formulation of policies and planning of programs in health, education, employment and others.


In order to face this issue, Bernama (2019) stated that the Ministry of Finance Malaysia announced that couples can withdraw the Employee Provident Fund (EPF) for them to try in-vitro fertilization (IVF). Peng (2020) suggested that to prevent additional declines in fertility and to enable more women to enter the workforce, the government, with business assistance, must scale up efforts to provide childcare services and more flexible work arrangements to satisfy the requirements of working women. This is because when women are satisfied with the work environment and know their child will be in a great care while they are at work, they sure will consider to add another child while they working because they are secure and sure their child are safe when they are contributing in workforce. Thus, the government played a very important role in order to change the fertility rate of a country and save it from population extinction.


In conclusion, the fertility rate in Malaysia has fallen from 4.9 births at 1970’s to 1.9 births per women, which is below replacement level; which can be concluded that the rate is declining from 1.9 babies per year to 1.8 babies per year. The theory of modernization fits perfectly with this concerning issue due to the fact that Malaysia is moving to be a develop country. In order to fix this issue, the government and society needed to do their roles to restore the fertility rate in Malaysia because fertility is important in improving the facilities and quality of life. It is hoped that with the solutions made by the government will improve the fertility rates and improve the human resources in Malaysia in the future.

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Analysis of Fertility in Malaysia. (2023, January 31). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 29, 2023, from
“Analysis of Fertility in Malaysia.” Edubirdie, 31 Jan. 2023,
Analysis of Fertility in Malaysia. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 29 May 2023].
Analysis of Fertility in Malaysia [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2023 Jan 31 [cited 2023 May 29]. Available from:
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