JULY 18 — Recent Statistics Department figures show that the country’s population has breached the 32-million mark this year, while the percentage of Chinese Malaysians drops further to 23.2 per cent.
It is anticipated that the percentage of Chinese population will fall below 20 per cent by 2040.
Although the number of Chinese Malaysians has been increasing over the years, the rate of increase is far below that of other ethnic groups, resulting in a perpetual decline in the ratio.
In addition to low birth rate, migration is also one of the reasons for the decline.
This is particularly obvious in Sabah. In 1963, Chinese made up 23 per cent of the state’s population. However, following the influx of foreigners in the following decades, the percentage of Chinese in Sabah is down to only about 10 per cent today.
As a matter of fact, this downtrend has long sounded an alarm bell within the Chinese community, but so far we still don’t see any effective solution that will reverse the trend. Experts have warned that the percentage of Chinese in Malaysia will continue to fall, for sure.
To arrest such a downtrend, local Chinese organizations have offered incentives to encourage Chinese Malaysians to give birth to more children. Unfortunately, this approach does not seem to work.
The low birth rate has been a consequence of several considerations and factors that can hardly be changed by means of a few incentives or rewards.
Modern Chinese Malaysian women are getting better education nowadays. They have their own careers and goals, unlike those in the olden days whose priority was to marry early and have plenty of children.
Additionally, the increasingly heavy economic burden has also contributed the constantly low birth rate among Chinese Malaysians, especially those in major urban areas where living expenses are high.
To be fair, low birth rate is a universal phenomenon that emerges when a country has reached a certain level of social and economic development. Where this is concerned, Chinese Malaysians appear to have progressed into this stage well ahead of other ethnic groups in the country.
In Malaysia, low birth rate among Chinese Malaysians is not the biggest problem; the real problem lies with the continuous decline in the ratio.
Chinese Malaysians are worried they will lose their right to voice up as their ratio shrinks, and that their rights will no longer be protected, which is understandable at a time racist undertone is strong.
Since the various ways of encouraging childbirth have been ineffective, why don’t we look for other alternatives to address the dilemma in a bid to safeguard the future of the Malaysian Chinese community?
Among the things we can do are promoting healthy development of democracy and human rights, establishing more harmonious relationships among people of different ethnic backgrounds, and building a more equitable political system.
This should be more workable than merely encouraging Chinese Malaysians to give birth to more children.
* This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail Online.