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1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 2012  
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 24/05/2012   
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Population

BIRTHS

WHAT IS REPLACEMENT LEVEL FERTILITY?

Replacement level fertility is the number of babies a female would need to have over her reproductive life to replace both herself and her partner. Given the current mortality rates for women aged up to 49 years in Australia, replacement fertility is estimated to be 2.1 babies per woman. Since 1976, the total fertility rate for Australia has been below this replacement level. Even if female mortality declined to zero for women until the end of their reproductive lives, the replacement level would still be 2.05 (1.05 male and 1.0 female babies) – higher than the total fertility rate of 1.89 babies per woman for 2010.

In 2010, there were 297,900 births registered in Australia. This was 2,200 (0.7%) more births than the number registered during 2009 and the highest ever recorded in a calendar year, exceeding the previous record of 296,600 births registered in 2008. In 2010, 34% of births were ex-nuptial births, that is, births to parents who were not legally married at the time of the birth.

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 1980 (excluding a plateau from 1966 to 1971). The period 1981 to 2003 has, while experiencing minor fluctuations, continued the overall decline, although at a slower rate. The total fertility rate reached a low of 1.73 babies per woman in 2001 and has increased since then, to a high of 1.96 babies per woman in 2008. Over the past two years, the total fertility rate has declined slightly from the 2008 high, reaching 1.89 babies per woman in 2010.

During 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 reached a new peak in 1961 when the total fertility rate reached 3.5 babies per woman (graph 7.17).

Graph 7.17 Total fertility rate(a), Australia



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, until reaching a low of 1.73 babies per woman in 2001. From 2002, the total fertility rate increased, reaching 1.96 babies per woman in 2008, the highest recorded since 1977. Australia's total fertility rate has subsequently decreased slightly to 1.89 babies per woman in 2010.

Despite the recent increase in fertility rates, Australian women are continuing to delay child-bearing. The median age at child-bearing increased from 28.3 years in 1990 to 29.8 years in 2000, then to 30.7 years in 2010. Since 2003, the median age at child-bearing has experienced little variation, remaining between 30.5 and 30.8 years. Over the last 20 years there has been a fall in the fertility rate of teenagers, from 22.1 babies per 1,000 teenage females in 1990 to 15.5 in 2010 (graph 7.18). Conversely, the fertility rate of women aged 40–44 years has almost tripled, from 5.5 babies per 1,000 women in 1990 to 14.8 in 2010. Fertility rates decreased slightly for all age groups under 35 years between 2009 and 2010, and increased for women aged over 35 years.

Graph 7.18 Age-specific fertility rates(a)



An alternative to the ‘snapshot’ measure provided by the total fertility rate is the total number of children ever born per woman. These data reveal a decline over time in the average number of children ever born by age of women. 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. The ABS projections show that females born in 2010 would have an average of 1.8 births per woman, if current trends were to continue.

Table 7.19 provides summary measures of fertility for the period 2000 to 2010.


7.19 SELECTED SUMMARY MEASURES OF FERTILITY

Registered
births
Median age
of mother(a)
Total fertility
rate(b)
Ex-nuptial
births(c)
Year
'000
years
rate
%

2000
249.6
29.8
1.76
29.2
2001
246.4
30.0
1.73
30.7
2002
251.0
30.2
1.76
31.3
2003
251.2
30.5
1.75
31.6
2004
254.3
30.6
1.76
32.2
2005
259.8
30.7
1.79
32.2
2006
266.0
30.8
1.82
32.7
2007
285.2
30.7
1.92
33.3
2008
296.6
30.7
1.96
34.3
2009
295.7
30.6
1.90
34.5
2010
297.9
30.7
1.89
33.8

(a) Based on confinements.
(b) Births per woman.
(c) Births to mothers who were not in a legal marriage at the time of birth as a proportion of total births.
Source: Births, Australia (3301.0).

 

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Statistics contained in the Year Book are the most recent available at the time of preparation. In many cases, the ABS website and the websites of other organisations provide access to more recent data. Each Year Book table or graph and the bibliography at the end of each chapter provides hyperlinks to the most up to date data release where available.

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