Quoting the latest official statistics, a Chinese daily
reported that 5.59 million Chinese made
up only 24.6% of the national population of 22.7 million.
If the report is correct, it is certainly a
point of concern because at one stage, the Chinese comprised 30% of the
The statistics also showed that of the
550,000 babies born in the first half of 1999, only 110,000 were Chinese while Malays
accounted for more than 365,000.
In fact, the projection is that in the coming
years, the number of Indians would be more than the Chinese.
At a seminar in 1988, it was already predicted that the Chinese population
could decline as low as 13% by the year 2100.
The trend is probably more pressing if one
takes into account the increasing number of Indonesian women giving birth in
There are many reasons why the Chinese
are not having big families. It's not just peculiar to Malaysia but also
In the case of Singapore, Prime Minister
Goh Chok Tong has even dangled two carrots to nudge them towards having
more children money and paid maternity leave, even for the third child.
The reasons are probably similar. Over
here, it is not wrong to say that many Chinese couples are marrying
later in life and in many cases,
preferring to remain single.
For young graduates and professionals,
plans to climb the corporate ladder have become their priority.
The lack of child-care support, unwillingness to spare time for a bigger
family, a child-free lifestyle, worry of
a family impeding their mobility and the reluctance in bringing up another child in a stressful
urban life are contributing factors.
Young couples in the city, burdened by the
increasing high cost of living, place much importance in maintaining a quality life
at the expense of family size. For older
couples, many put off the idea of another child
after years of hard work.
That aside, Malaysian Chinese understand
the importance of doing well in life. They know that education is costly and they
need to save up for their children's
If their children cannot secure a place in
the public universities, their only option is private education.
Over the years, the burden is somewhat
lesser with the Government's liberal approach to private colleges but
going private is still expensive for
The Federation of Chinese Associations or
Huazong has responded positively to the call by MCA vice-president Datuk Ong Ka Ting who urged the community to take a
serious view of the drop in the
country's Chinese population.
Huazong, which represents the 13 state
Chinese Assembly Halls, is also the highest authority among the country's several
thousand Chinese guilds and associations.
Ong had stressed the importance of the
community's role in answering manpower
needs as the nation forged ahead to become a developed state.
There is also the political cost. It must not
be forgotten that Chinese voters, who are always pragmatic, have played
a crucial, even decisive, factor in
Shunning religious extremism, the community has consistently backed the
Alliance and then Barisan
The declining Chinese population should
not just be the concern of the MCA and Chinese associations but also the
Huazong president Tan Sri Chong Chin
Seong said the group was planning to set up a fund to give incentives to young couples
to have more babies.
The same sentiment was expressed by Datuk Ng Teck Fong, deputy president of
the Malaysian Federation of Hakka
This is not the first time such monetary
consideration has been made. A few years
back, a Chinese trade group offered the
same deal to its members but it was
scrapped when there were no takers.
The realisation to regenerate and rejuvenate the community is commendable but
it is hardly practical.
No doubt, it is a nice gesture but the concern among young couples is not money
to start a family but the cost of
raising a family.
It's like paying a deposit to book a house.
The real problem is the progressive payments and repaying the
But all is not lost. While the numbers
game is important in Malaysian politics, it is equally important to focus on building a community which is educated, skilful,
competitive and self-reliant.
Attention should also be made to ensure
that the entrepreneurial spirit is instilled among young Chinese.
It is also important for the community to
forge a consensus on political issues and to adopt a common direction, taking into account
our multi-racial, multi-religious and
There must be a willingness to sacrifice
narrow self-political interest for wider community interests.
Such fundamental re-thinking is essential
given the challenges ahead. Size is important but so is quality.