FERTILITY RATE STEADY
- Australia's total fertility rate (TFR) in 2002 was 1.75 babies per woman, slightly higher than the TFR in 2001 of 1.73. Over the past five years the TFR has been relatively stable, varying between 1.73 and 1.76 since 1998.
- Women aged 30-34 years experienced the highest fertility of all age groups for the third consecutive year, with a rate of 111 babies per 1,000 women, while women aged 25-29 years experienced the second highest fertility (104 babies per 1,000 women).
- Fertility of 20–24 year old women continued to decline during 2002. Over the past two decades fertility for this age group has almost halved, from 104 babies per 1,000 women in 1982 to 56 babies per 1,000 women in 2002. Fertility of women aged 25-29 years has also fallen considerably, from 145 babies per 1,000 women in 1982 to 104 babies per 1,000 women in 2002.
- Of the states and territories, the Northern Territory recorded the highest TFR in 2002 (2.28 babies per woman) while the Australian Capital Terrritory recorded the lowest (1.59).
- Australia's total fertility rate remains lower than that of the United States of America (2.1) and New Zealand (2.0), and higher than that of the United Kingdom (1.6), Canada (1.5), Japan (1.3) and many European countries such as Germany (1.4), Greece (1.3), Spain (1.2) and Italy (1.2).
INDIGENOUS BIRTHS AND FERTILITY
- In 2002 there were 251,000 births registered in Australia. This was 1.9% (4,600 births) higher than the number registered in 2001 (246,400), and the highest since 1997.
- Of the states and territories, Victoria recorded the largest increase in births in 2002 (up 2,900 over the number registered in 2001) followed by New South Wales (up 2,000). South Australia, the Australian Capital Territory and Queensland also recorded more births in 2002 than 2001, while there were fewer births in Tasmania, Western Australia and the Northern Territory.
- There were 11,500 births registered in Australia during 2002 (5% of all births registered) where at least one parent identified as Indigenous.
- Notwithstanding coverage issues affecting Indigenous births, Indigenous women have a higher TFR (2.19 babies per woman in 2002) than all women (1.75 babies).
- Women in the Northern Territory experienced the highest TFR of the states and territories, at 2.28 babies per woman, while Indigenous women in the Northern Territory experienced even higher fertility (2.77 babies per woman).
- High fertility at younger ages contributes to the relatively high fertility of Indigenous women. In 2002, women under 30 years of age accounted for almost three-quarters of the Indigenous total fertility rate, compared to half of the fertility rate for all women in Australia.
- For Indigenous women, the peak age group for births is the 20–24 year age group (132 babies per 1,000 women), followed by women aged 25-29 years (113 babies).
- The median age of Indigenous women who registered a birth during 2002 was 24.6 years, more than five years younger than the median age of all women who registered a birth in 2002 (30.2 years).
ECHOES OF THE BABY BOOM
- Fertility has a steady and pronounced impact on population growth. Assuming future net overseas migration of 100,000 people per year and life expectancy increasing to 84.2 years for males and 87.7 years for females by 2051, a change in the future total fertility rate of just 0.1 births per woman would result in Australia's population being almost one million larger or smaller by 2051, and more than two million larger or smaller by 2101.
- Under a high fertility scenario (a TFR of 1.8 babies per woman), the population of Australia would grow to 28.1 million by 2051 and to 31.4 million by 2101.
- If fertility were to remain constant at the 2001 level of 1.7 babies per woman, Australia's population would reach 27.3 million by 2051 and 28.8 million by 2101.
- Under a medium fertility assumption (1.6), Australia's population would reach 26.4 million by 2051, peak at 26.7 million in 2069 and slowly decline to 26.4 millionin 2101.
- If the TFR fell further, to 1.4 babies per woman by 2011 (low scenario), Australia's population would peak at 24.8 million in 2051 before declining to 22.1 million by 2101.
- In contrast, if fertility were to increase to replacement level (2.1 babies per woman), Australia's population would increase to 30.8 million by 2051, to 40.4 million by 2101, and would continue to grow beyond 2101.
- The number of babies born in any given year is the product of two factors-the number of women of reproductive age in the population, and their fertility behaviour. Consequently, fertility has a marked generational effect. That is, the number of babies born in any given year will determine the number of reproductive-aged women in one generation's time, which will in turn affect the number of babies born when that generation of women enters its childbearing years, and so on. Australia's post-war baby boom set in motion just such a generational effect.
- The first peak of the baby boom occurred in 1947 (182,400 births), when Australia's TFR exceeded three babies per woman for the first time in twenty years.
- Almost 25 years later, in 1971, when the median age of mothers giving birth was 25 years, Australia's largest ever cohort was born (276,400 births). This was the first echo of the baby boom (that is, those who were born in 1971 were the children of the first boomers).
- A second echo of the baby boom, if it were to exist, might have been expected to occur around 2001, when the age of the large 1971 cohort coincided with the median age of mothers (that is, 30 years of age).
- The numbers of births in recent years, however, shows no such effect, suggesting that in order for this to occur, age and cohort effects must take place within a social and economic context which is also conducive to high fertility.