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1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 2005  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 21/01/2005   
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Contents >> Population >> Births

In 2002 there were 251,000 births registered in Australia, resulting in a total fertility rate of 1.76 babies per woman. Australia is experiencing the second of two long periods of fertility decline since 1901 - from 1907 to 1934 and from 1962 to the present (excluding a plateau from 1966 to 1972) - although in recent years the total fertility rate has remained relatively stable.

For the first decade of the 20th century the total fertility rate remained at around 3.7 to 4.0 babies per woman, then consistently declined over the next two and a half decades. By 1934, during the Depression, the total fertility rate had fallen to 2.1 babies per woman. It then increased during the second half of the 1930s, as women who had deferred child-bearing in the Depression years began to have children. Fertility increased through World War II and the 1950s, and peaked in 1961 when the total fertility rate reached 3.5 babies per woman (graph 5.23).

After the 1961 peak the total fertility rate fell rapidly to 2.9 babies per woman in 1966. This fall can be attributed to changing social attitudes, in particular a change in people's perception of desired family size, facilitated by the oral contraceptive pill becoming available. During the 1970s the total fertility rate dropped further, falling to replacement level (2.1 babies per woman) in 1976, below which it has since remained. This fall was more marked than the fall in the early-1960s and has been linked to the increasing participation of women in education and the labour force, changing attitudes to family size, lifestyle choices and greater access to contraceptive measures and abortion.

In the late-1970s the total fertility rate began to decline at a slower rate, continuing through the 1980s and 1990s. Since 1998 the total fertility rate has been relatively stable, varying between 1.73 and 1.76 babies per woman.

Graph 5.23: TOTAL FERTILITY RATE



According to United Nations projections, the world average total fertility rate for 2000-05 is estimated at 2.69 babies per woman, declining from the relatively constant five babies per woman that existed until the late-1960s and early-1970s. However, total fertility rates for individual countries vary considerably. Many factors can influence a country's fertility rate, such as differences in social and economic development and the prevalence of contraceptive use. In general, developing countries have higher fertility rates than developed countries.

Australia’s total fertility rate for 2002 of 1.76 babies per woman was well below the world’s average but it was comparable to that of other developed countries, most of which have also experienced sustained fertility decline. According to the United Nations estimated average total fertility rates for 2000-05, Hong Kong has the lowest fertility rate (1.00), followed by Bulgaria, Latvia and Macau (SAR of China) (1.10). Several European countries also have very low fertility, including the Russian Federation (1.14), Spain (1.15) and Italy (1.23). By contrast, many West African and Asian countries have relatively high fertility rates, with Niger (8.00) and Somalia (7.25) being the highest.

Over the past 50 years, fertility has declined in most countries. Of the countries shown in graph 5.24, the total fertility rates of the Asian countries have shown the largest declines. Singapore and China experienced large declines in the total fertility rate - from 6.4 and 6.2 babies per woman respectively in 1950-55, to 1.4 and 1.8 in 2000-05.

Graph 5.24: INTERNATIONAL TOTAL FERTILITY RATES, Selected countries



Australian women continue to delay child-bearing. The median age at child-bearing increased from 26.8 years in 1982 to 28.7 years in 1992, then to 30.2 years in 2002 (graph 5.25). Over the past 20 years there has been a fall in the fertility rate of teenagers, from 27.4 babies per 1,000 teenage females in 1982 to 17.1 in 2002. Conversely, the fertility rate of women aged 40 years and above has doubled, from 1.3 babies per 1,000 women in 1982 to 2.6 in 2002. However, births to older mothers have failed to compensate for the decline in births to younger women, resulting in a decline in total fertility.

Graph 5.25: AGE DISTRIBUTION OF WOMEN HAVING BABIES



Total issue data provides an alternative to the ‘snapshot’ measure provided by the total fertility rate. Total issue data reveal a decline over time in the average number of children by age of women. While at earlier ages the decline in average issue may be related to the postponement of child-bearing, average issue among women aged 40-44 years has also declined (from 2.11 children born to women born in 1962 to 1.75 children projected to have been born to women born in 1992).

Table 5.26 provides summary measures of fertility for census years between 1901 and 1986, and individual years between 1992 and 2002.


5.26 SELECTED SUMMARY MEASURES OF FERTILITY

Registered births
Crude births
Total fertility
Ex-nuptial births(a)
no.
rate(b)
rate(c)
%

1901
102,945
27.2
(d)3.93
n.a.
1911
122,193
27.2
(d)3.69
5.8
1921
136,198
25.0
3.12
4.7
1933
111,269
16.8
2.17
4.7
1947
182,384
24.1
3.08
4.0
1954
202,256
22.5
3.19
4.0
1961
239,986
22.8
3.55
5.1
1966
223,731
19.3
2.89
7.4
1971
276,361
21.6
2.95
9.3
1976
227,810
16.2
2.06
10.1
1981
235,842
15.8
1.94
13.2
1986
243,408
15.2
1.87
16.8
1992
264,151
15.1
1.89
24.0
1993
260,229
14.7
1.86
24.9
1994
258,051
14.5
1.85
25.6
1995
256,190
14.2
1.83
26.6
1996
253,834
13.9
1.80
27.4
1997
251,842
13.6
1.78
28.1
1998
249,616
13.3
1.76
28.7
1999
248,870
13.1
1.76
29.2
2000
249,636
13.0
1.76
29.2
2001
246,394
12.7
1.73
30.7
2002
250,988
12.8
1.76
31.3

(a) Proportion of total live births which were ex-nuptial.
(b) Number of births expressed as a proportion of the total population; the rate is per 1,000 population.
(c) The number of children a woman would bear during her lifetime if she experienced current age-specific fertility rates at each age of her reproductive life.
(d) Estimated total fertility rate.

Source: Australian Demographic Trends (3102.0); Births, Australia (3301.0).


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