Malaysia’s birth rate dipped to its lowest level in decades during the Covid-19 pandemic, according to statistics released by the Department of Statistics Malaysia today.
Chief statistician Mohd Uzir Mahidin said the total fertility rate (TRF) for women of childbearing age decreased to 1.7 children in 2020 compared to 1.8 in 2019.
“The birth rate in 2020 was the lowest in four decades,” he said, adding that this had stood at 4.9 children per woman in 1970.
“Malaysia’s fertility rate is below the 2.1 replacement level for children used since 2013,” he said in a statement.
The 2.1 replacement level refers to the average number of children that a woman must bear for a population to replace itself from one generation to the next.
All ethnic groups recorded a drop in TFR for the period of 2010 to 2020 – from 2.6. to 2.2 for Bumiputeras, 1.5 to 1.0 for Chinese and 1.7 to 1.2 for Indians.
Uzir said the decreasing trend was in line with that of developed countries like Australia, the UK, New Zealand and Japan.
“The birth rate was already on the decline before Covid-19,” he told MalaysiaNow. “It’s possible that Covid-19 also had an effect on this.”
A total of 240,590 live births were recorded from January to August this year – the lowest number in a decade.
“The number of live births recorded in 2020 was 470,195, a 3.6% drop from 487,957 in 2019,” Uzir said.
“This drop in number of births has caused the crude birth rate (CBR) to decrease from 15.0 births in 2019 to 14.4 for each 1,000 people in 2020.”
In terms of states, only Terengganu, Perlis and Labuan did not post a drop in the number of live births for 2020.
Terengganu recorded the highest birth rate at 21.6 births per 1,000 people while Penang recorded the lowest at 11.1 births.
The declining trend in number of births was also caused by a rise in women’s education level and their participation in the work force.
“The average age of mothers at their first live birth rose by 0.1 years from 27.9 in 2019 to 28.0 in 2020,” Uzir said.
“In general, the increase in average age of mothers indicates a shorter reproductive period for women.”
Other factors include the development of urbanisation, change in lifestyle, economic status and increase in family planning methods.