Australian Bureau of Statistics

Rate the ABS website
ABS Home > Statistics > By Release Date
ABS @ Facebook ABS @ Twitter ABS RSS ABS Email notification service
1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 2003  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 24/01/2003   
   Page tools: Print Print Page RSS Feed RSS Bookmark and Share Search this Product  
Contents >> Population >> Births

Since 1901 Australia has experienced two long periods of fertility decline: from 1907 to 1934, and from 1962 to the present. 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 Great 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 (see graph 5.20).

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 again, falling to below replacement level (2.1 babies per woman) in 1976, where it has remained since. 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.

Graph - 5.20 Total fertility rate



According to United Nations projections, the world average total fertility rate for 2000-05 will be 2.68 babies per woman, declining from the relatively constant five births per woman that existed until the late 1960s and early 1970s. However, total fertility rates for individual countries vary remarkably. Many factors can influence a country's fertility rate, such as differences in social and economic development and the use of contraceptives. In general, developing countries have higher fertility rates while developed countries usually have lower rates.

While Australia's total fertility rate for 2000 of 1.75 babies per woman is well below the world's average, it is 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, Armenia, Bulgaria, Latvia and Ukraine share the lowest total fertility rate (1.10) followed by Spain (1.13), and Slovenia and the Russian Federation (each 1.14). In contrast, the West African and Asian countries have relatively high fertility rates, with Niger (8.00) and Yemen (7.60) the highest.

Over the past 50 years the total fertility rate has declined for most countries. Of the selected countries shown in graph 5.21, the total fertility rates of the Asian countries have shown the largest declines. Singapore and China experienced large declines in the total fertility rate of 5.0 and 4.4 children per woman respectively, between 1950-55 and 2000-05.

Graph - 5.21 Internation total fertility rates



Australian women continue to delay child-bearing. The median age at child-bearing has increased from 26.6 years in 1980 to 28.3 years in 1990, then to 29.8 years in 2000 (graph 5.22). In 1980 most births were to women aged 25 years and over, with 8.0% of all births to women aged 25 years. In 2000, most births were by women aged 29 years and over, with 7.6% of all births to women aged 28 years and 7.4% of all births to women at 29 years. Over the past 20 years there has been a fall in the proportion of births to teenage mothers, from 7.8% in 1980 to 4.6% in 2000. Conversely, the proportion of births to women aged 40 years and above has increased, from 0.8% in 1980 to 2.6% in 2000.

Graph - 5.22 Age distribution of women having babies



Table 5.23 brings together summary measures of fertility for census years between 1901 and 1986, and individual years between 1990 and 2000.


5.23 SELECTED SUMMARY MEASURES OF FERTILITY

Registered births
Crude births(a)
Total fertility
Ex-nuptial births(c)
Year ended 31 December
no.
rate
rate(b)
%

1901
102,945
27.2
3.93(d)
n.a.
1911
122,193
27.2
3.69(d)
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
1990
262,648
15.4
1.91
21.9
1991
257,247
14.9
1.86
23.0
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
1.75
29.2
2000
249,636
13.0
1.75
29.2

(a) Number of births expressed as a proportion of the total population; the rate is per 1,000 population.
(b) 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.
(c) Proportion of total live births which were ex-nuptial.
(d) Estimated total fertility rate.

Source: Australian Demographic Trends (3102.0); Births, Australia (3301.0); Hugo 2001.


Previous PageNext Page

Bookmark and Share. Opens in a new window


Commonwealth of Australia 2014

Unless otherwise noted, content on this website is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Australia Licence together with any terms, conditions and exclusions as set out in the website Copyright notice. For permission to do anything beyond the scope of this licence and copyright terms contact us.