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Recent Trends in Australian Fertility

  • Physics


Births in Australia are at an historical high - with around 285 000 babies born in 2007. This corresponds to an estimated total fertility rate of 1.93 babies per woman, the highest since the early 1980s. This is not a one-off event as fertility rates have been generally rising for the last 6 years. Overall, the evidence suggests that after its long downward trend after the Second World War, Australia's fertility rate may have stabilised at around 1.75 to 1.9 babies per woman. Much of the recent increase in the fertility rate is likely to reflect the fact that over the last few decades, younger women postponed childbearing and many are now having these postponed babies (so-called 'recuperation'). This has shown up as higher fertility rates for older women. However, some of the increase is also likely to be due to a 'quantum' effect - an increase in the number of babies women will ultimately have over their lifetimes. For example, today's young women say they are expecting to have more babies over their lifetime than those five years ago. Overall, Australia appears to be in a 'safe zone' of fertility, despite fertility levels being below replacement levels. There is no fertility crisis. Australia's population should continue to grow at one of the highest rates in the developed world because of migrant inflows. Feasibly attainable increases in fertility would not significantly allay ageing of the population, nor address its fiscal and labour market challenges. The views expressed in this paper are those of the staff involved and do not necessarily reflect those of the Productivity Commission.

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