KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) - - An increasing number of Malaysian couples are seeking fertility treatment as the country's birthrate declines, a newspaper has reported.
A recent United Nations report showed the country's fertility rate dropped from 3.6 babies per couple in 1990 to 2.6 babies currently, the New Sunday Times said.
A key reason for the decline is an increasing fertility problem among Malaysian women, with as many as half of those who visit gynaecological specialists asking for treatment to help them conceive, Health Minister Liow Tiong Lai said.
"Many of the couples will remain childless unless they are helped using the 'assisted reproductive technology' technique," Liow told the paper.
Liow said between 10 and 15 percent of childless couples in the country, aged between 30 and 40, had fertility problem.
A 2004 government study predicted that Malaysia's fertility rate would decline 0.1 percent every five years, as women postpone marriage and having children.
The study also revealed the number of children being born varied widely according to the educational level of the mother. Women with no formal education had almost twice as many children as those with a tertiary education.
Officials have voiced concerns that the low fertility rate could bring about changes in the country's demographic structure, including a gradual ageing of the population.
Malaysia's population is currently estimated to be almost 27 million. Government policy sets a target of 70 million by the year 2100.
AFP - Sunday, July 12
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