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Worryingly high Myanmar marital birthrate revealed following census


Ethnic Lwes carry firewood on their backs as they walk back to the village of Wan Seng near Kengtung district of Shan State, eastern Myanmar, 29 June 2015. Photo: Lynn Bo Bo/EPA

While the total fertility rate in Myanmar is 2.5 children per woman, and on par with ASEAN averages, new and more detailed data tell a very different story: Married women in Myanmar give birth to five children on average. 

For example, married women in Chin State give birth to nine children on average, compared to four in Yangon. 

The findings come from the 2014 Myanmar Population and Housing Census Thematic Report on Fertility and Nuptiality.

Carefully assessed analysis indicates Myanmar faces a worrying picture in which certain sectors of the population are not receiving sufficient family planning support, as advised by the UNFPA.

In Myanmar, fertility rates are strongly influenced by geographical and socioeconomic factors, including the level of education of women. The adolescent fertility rate is 33 births annually per 1,000 women aged 15-19, with regional highs in Shan and Chin states. Births by very young women are of concern not least because they tend to have adverse health consequences for both mother and child.

“The report uncovers the hardship of parents who struggle to care for large families. It reveals the vulnerability of women who cannot access the contraceptives they want. Poor and uneducated women in remote areas carry the heaviest burden.The findings highlight the need for better family planning options, and for investment in girls’ education,” says Janet E. Jackson, UNFPA Representative for Myanmar.   

The report also shows that an exceptionally high proportion of women in Myanmar never marry. Twelve percent remain never-married at age 50. This is the second-highest figure in Southeast Asia after Singapore (13 percent). Myanmar has more than four times as many never-married women as Laos, and more than twice as many as Vietnam and Cambodia.

For women that do marry, the mean age at first marriage is 23.6 years, up from 21.3 years in 1973. People tend to choose spouses with similar literacy and education levels. Divorce rates in Myanmar are low: 3 percent of women and 2 percent of men are divorced or separated.

As the UNDP explains, the main results of the 2014 Myanmar Population and Housing Census were published in May 2015. The thematic report on Fertility and Nuptiality is one of the first in a series of 13. The thematic reports contain new data as well as previously released data which have been statistically adjusted for higher accuracy. The reports analyse the relationship between different data, and shed light on what the numbers tell us about the lives of people in Myanmar. The census was conducted by the Government of Myanmar. UNFPA has provided, and continues to provide, technical and financial support towards the census.

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