by Ha Nguyen
Traditionally, Vietnamese people get married and have children in their mid-twenties and early thirties. But today, an increasing number of couples – inspired by their peers in Western countries - are waiting to start families.
Although her parents have urged her repeatedly to get married, Nguyen Ngoc Chau, 29, in Ha Noi's Hai Ba Trung District, said she still feels comfortable living the single life.
"Almost all my friends are married and already have one or two children. Many of them have to face new difficulties, such as not having enough money to buy things for their families or making it through the day at work after staying awake all night taking care of the baby," Chau said.
Afraid of these problems, she plans to live with her parents until she can afford to buy a small flat.
"I want to have a stable life before I get married. After that, I will think about having a child. This is not a problem for a modern family nowadays. In the past, the situation was different. My parents wanted to have five to six children whom they could rely on when they got old," Chau said.
Chau's friend, Bui Thi Hoan, who works for a foreign-invested company, said she didn't dare to take advantage of her six-month maternity leave because if she stayed at home, her job "would be taken by someone else".
So Hoan asked her mother to come to the capital – a decision that meant travelling from the province of Ninh Binh and temporarily giving up her work as a farmer.
But even this did not solve all Hoan's problems. She worried that she would lose the opportunity for promotion because she had to stay at home for several days when her child was ill.
Even though her child is a girl, she said, she and her husband do not plan to have another.
"It's more important to raise one child well than to have as many as possible," said Hoan. "We will spend time to feed her healthily and take her on vacation because we both like travelling very much."
Her husband, Tuan Anh, said their decision was not easy. His parents strongly urged them to try for a son. As Anh is the only boy in his family, this would maintain the continuity of his family line.
"I had to tell my parents time and again that we are government employees, so we have a monthly income. We don't have to rely on others to feed us after we retire," Anh said. "When they expressed their worry that there would be no one to worship our ancestors, I told them that a dutiful daughter would know how to follow the traditional customs."
Duong Quoc Trong, head of the Health Ministry's Department for Population and Family Planning, said that in many localities, women are having fewer children.
An average woman of child-bearing age gave birth to 6.3 children in the 1960s, compared with 2.03 children in 2009 and 1.9 children in 2011.
The national population goal is set at 2.1 children per couple, although current trends indicate that the actual number will be less. According to the department's latest survey, women in urban areas such as HCM City gave birth to an average of 1.3 children in recent years, said Trong.
Professor Nguyen Dinh Cu, of the National Economics University's Institute for Population and Social Matters, said the more developed the country becomes economically, the lower the birthrate. Higher learning also means a reduced birth rate, according to population and family planning surveys, said Cu.
He warned, however, that many women who achieve success in their careers and have a high quality of life experience difficulty in conceiving children because of their age.
Doctors advise women to give birth around the age of 30. — VNS