When it comes to declining birth rates, the government wants Malaysians to worry less about quality and focus more on quantity.
"We have implemented various initiatives to encourage couples to have more children.
"This includes introducing family-friendly work arrangements to remind couples to avoid being too caught up in striving for a better quality of living but to think about having children for the long term future of the country," cabinet minister Rohani Karim reportedly said.
The Women, Family and Community Development Minister was reported by The Star as saying this during Question Time in Parliament today.
Rohani (photo) said Malaysians should ideally have three or four children per family, but the average fertility rate of Malaysians was 2.1 children in 2012, with the figure expected to drop to 1.91 children in 2020.
Malaysia is expected to be an ageing population by 2035, with 15 percent being above the age of 60.
She said despite programmes to encourage couples to have more children, most only have two or less depending on their income.
"We cannot force couples to have children as the decision depends on them," she is quoted as saying.
'Don't complain about GST on diapers'
She was replying to Dr Azman Ismail (PKR-Kuala Kedah) who asked about the shrinking population, especially in Chinese and Indian communities.
Acknowledging this, the minister said Chinese fertility rates are 1.6 children, while Indians 1.5, far behind Malays who record fertility rate of 2.6 children in 2012.
"The ministry does not have a target for fertility rate based on race. But we are very concerned on the decrease in the national average fertility rate," she reportedly said.
At prevailing rates, Malaysia’s population in the year 2020 will be 32 million, she said.
This may not hit the target of set by Vision 2020 architect ex-premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad who envisioned 70 million Malaysians by the year 2100.
Mahathir’s daughter, social activist Marina Mahathir (photo) , however, is not too keen.
"So have lots of children and give them lesser quality of life? And don’t complain about Goods and Services Tax on diapers," the mother of three said in a Facebook posting responding to Rohani.