More couples delay wedding day
THE regional trends towards men and women marrying later and single motherhood have been identified in Malaysia.
Malaysians are also having fewer children, with the average declining from four in 1980 to 3.4 last year.
Women's organisations attribute the changes to the dramatic economic growth, which has provided greater job opportunities for women and caused people to migrate from the countryside to urban areas to take up employment.
The National Census and Family Development Board, which released the statistics, said the family unit was facing the challenges of progress, urbanisation, and industrialisation.
Noting that the roles of husbands and wives were less defined, it forecast that the number of single mothers would continue to increase.
The board focused on women aged between 15 and 24 but women's organisations said their informal studies showed the trends extended to people in their 30s.
The figures revealed an increase in the average age of marriage among the women surveyed from 16.6 to 19.3 in a 25-year period to 1992 with recent studies indicating a continuing rise.
The board said that among the three main racial groups in Malaysia, Chinese women married later than Malay or Indian women and city women married later than rural women.
Irene Fernandez, director of Tenaganita, a leading women's group, said women working for the first time needed to adjust to life as workers and many postponed marriage.
Ms Fernandez said it had become much more acceptable in Malaysian society for women to work because it represented an economic gain for the Government and families.
'Families used to depend on boys to ensure security for parents,' she said. 'But now girls have become equally important as income earners.'