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    084020
    Peer Reviewed

    Changing population policies and women's lives in Malaysia.

    Abdullah R

    REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH MATTERS. 1993 May; (1):67-77.

    Malaysia's population policy established in 1984 aimed to slow the decline in the fertility rate to .1 point every 5 years from the current decline of .3 or .4 points every 5 years. The aim was to achieve a stable population of 70 million by the year 2100, instead of the projection of 39 million by the year 2150. The perceived social and economic implications of this policy were considered, but the impact on women was not. Earlier policies have focused on the health of women and the need for family planning (FP), but the new objective was to spur economic growth through a larger number of "quality" human resources. This article examines the public response to the policy, the impact on FP programs, the impact on women and women's fertility, the role of donor agencies, women-centered policies and programs, and an action agenda for women's organizations. From academic circles, the response was to question the viability of increasing population when already there was insufficient infrastructure and services. In 1990, 34% of rural areas still did not have safe water and 10% had no electricity. The current Deputy Minister Fong had previously expressed the concern that work force needs did not demand large numbers, but rather, highly skilled persons were needed. Few of these concerns were expressed in the media. Chinese and Indians thought the policy was an attempt to increase the Malay numbers. The Malays saw it as a call to strengthen their race and religion. The FP Board set new targets for acceptors. Abortions were not as easily obtained. Reports surfaced of FP clinics refusing to give pills or IUDs to women with few children. Actual fertility declined from 3.9 to 1980 to 3.3 in 1990 and varied by region and ethnic group. Malay fertility increased from 4.5 in 1989 to 4.8 in 1985, and then began to decline in the late 1980s. A survey found 59% of women favored the policy of which 75% were Malays. There was some decline in donor support. The maternal mortality rate was unaffected. Women apparently want fertility limitation. Women's groups were more active in reflecting their concerns around 1984 than at present, but women activists are still a new phenomena. There is need for women's groups to link up with other national and international women's health networks.
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