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1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 2008  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 07/02/2008   
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Contents >> Population >> Births

BIRTHS

In 2005 there were 259,800 births registered in Australia, resulting in a total fertility rate of 1.79 babies per woman. Until recently, Australia had been experiencing the second of two long periods of fertility decline since 1901 - from 1907 to 1934, and from 1962 to the late-1990s (excluding a plateau from 1966 to 1972). In recent years the total fertility rate increased from 1.73 babies per woman in 2001 to 1.79 in 2005.

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 fell 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 7.25).

7.25 Total fertility rate
Graph: 7.25 Total fertility rate

After 1961 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 to an extent 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 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 then the total fertility rate has increased, from 1.73 babies per woman in 2001, to 1.79 in 2005, the highest recorded since 1996 (1.80).

According to United Nations 2006 projections, the world average total fertility rate for the five-year period 2005-10 is estimated at 2.55 babies per woman. 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.Over the last 50 years fertility declined in most countries. According to the United Nations, Singapore and China show large declines in the average total fertility rate - from 5.99 and 5.59 babies per woman respectively in the period 1955-60 to 1.26 and 1.73 in 2005-10 (graph 7.26). During the period 2005-10, Macao (SAR of China) is projected to have one of the lowest average total fertility rates (0.91), followed by Hong Kong (SAR of China) (0.97). Several European countries also have low fertility, including the Ukraine (1.22), Spain (1.41), Italy (1.38), Germany (1.36) and the Russian Federation (1.34). Although below the world average of 2.55, Australia's total fertility rate for 2005 of 1.79 babies per woman is comparable to other developed countries.

In contrast, many African countries have high fertility. Projections for the period 2005-10 have Niger (7.19) among the highest. In South-East Asia, in the period 1955-60, East Timor (6.53) had one of the world's highest fertility rates and, like Niger, is projected to have sustained high fertility during the period 2005-10.

7.26 Total fertility rates(a), selected countries
Graph: 7.26 Total fertility rates(a), selected countries

Australian women continue to delay child-bearing. The median age at child-bearing increased from 27.3 years in 1985 to 29.1 years in 1995, then to 30.7 years in 2005. Over the last 20 years there has been a fall in the fertility rate of teenagers, from 22.8 babies per 1,000 teenage females in 1985 to 15.9 in 2005. Conversely, the fertility rate of women aged 40-44 years more than doubled, from 4.5 babies per 1,000 women in 1985 to 10.8 in 2005. However, births to older mothers failed to compensate for the decline in births to younger women, resulting in a decline in total fertility (graph 7.27).
7.27 Age-specific fertility rates
Graph: 7.27 Age-specific fertility rates

An alternative to the ‘snapshot’ measure provided by the total fertility rate is total issue statistics (the total number of children ever born per woman). Total issue data reveal a decline over time in the average number of children ever born by age of women. While at younger ages the decline in the average number of children may be related to the postponement of child-bearing, the average number of children among women aged 40-44 years also declined. Completed fertility (the average number of births a cohort of females have borne) for women born in 1955 show an average of 2.2 births per woman. Projections show that females born in 2005 would have an average of 1.7 births per woman, if current trends were to continue.

Table 7.28 provides summary measures of fertility for the period 1995 to 2005.

7.28 SELECTED SUMMARY MEASURES OF FERTILITY

Registered births
Crude birth rate(a)
Total fertility rate(b)
Exnuptial births(c)
'000
no.
no.
%

1995
256.2
14.2
1.8
26.6
1996
253.8
13.9
1.8
27.4
1997
251.8
13.6
1.8
28.1
1998
249.6
13.3
1.8
28.7
1999
248.9
13.1
1.8
29.2
2000
249.6
13.0
1.8
29.2
2001
246.4
12.7
1.7
30.7
2002
251.0
12.8
1.8
31.3
2003
251.2
12.6
1.8
31.6
2004
254.2
12.6
1.8
32.2
2005
259.8
12.7
1.8
32.2

(a) Births per 1,000 population.
(b) Births per woman.
(c) Births to unmarried mothers as a proportion of total births.
Source: Births, Australia (3301.0).


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