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Special Article - Fertility and family in Western Australia
In the last 30 years, Western Australia's crude birth rate has remained consistently higher than the national rate and the rates of Victoria and South Australia. It has been consistently lower than the Northern Territory's rate, where a younger population and a higher proportion of Indigenous people have contributed to a relatively high rate.
Age-Specific Fertility Rate
In the last twenty years, age-specific fertility rates for Western Australian women have undergone dramatic change, reflecting women's increasing participation in the labour force and postponement of motherhood. The age-specific fertility rate (ASFR) refers to number of live births to mothers at each age per 1,000 of the female population of that age. The ASFR for women based on five year age groups shows that births to women aged between 15 and 29 years have decreased, with the rates for women 30 years and over increasing.
Most notably, the 20-24 year age group has experienced the greatest change, with the ASFR decreasing from 117.4 in 1980 to 61.6 in 2000. The 25-29 year age group also experienced a strong decline, from 141.2 in 1980 to 108.3 in 2000. Conversely, the ASFR for the 30-34 year age group has increased from 72.8 in 1980 to 109.8 in 2000. The 35-39 year age group also experienced an increase in the ASFR, from 20.5 in 1980 to 46.5 in 2000. For most age groups the decline or increase has been consistent over the last twenty years. However, for the 25-29 year age group the ASFR increased to a peak of 151.5 in 1986 and has since steadily declined.
Total Fertility Rate
Fertility patterns in Western Australia's regional areas have undergone significant change since the late 1980s. When comparing total fertility rates (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) between regional areas, some interesting patterns emerge.
While there has been a decline in the total fertility rates (TFRs) over the last twelve years in all Statistical Divisions (SDs) of Western Australia, Perth has experienced consistently lower total fertility rates than the other SDs. The TFR for the Perth SD declined from 1.824 in 1988 to 1.477 in 2000. During this period, the Kimberley SD in northern Western Australia had one of the highest TFRs of all the regions in the State, declining from 3.042 in 1988 to 1.757 in 2000.
Other regions to have experienced relatively high TFRs between 1988 and 2000 include the SDs of Midlands and Lower Great Southern, declining from 2.446 to 1.827 and 2.319 to 2.086, respectively.
Maternal age is another indicator that allows comparison of the fertility patterns between different groups of women. In comparing fertility patterns between Indigenous and non-Indigenous women, it is apparent that Indigenous women have their children at much younger ages.
In 2000, a quarter of all births to Indigenous women in Western Australia were to mothers aged less than 20 years and 31% were to women aged 20-24 years. For the non-Indigenous population, the proportions were considerably lower, at 4% and 16%, respectively. Conversely, in 2000, nearly a third of all births to non-Indigenous mothers were to women aged between 30 and 34 years. The proportion for Indigenous mothers in this age group was 12%.
However, the tendency to delay motherhood has become increasingly apparent in the Indigenous population. Between 1995 and 2000, the proportion of Indigenous women having children under the age of 25 years fell from 62% to 56% and the proportion aged 25 years and over increased from 38% to 44%.
Women without children
In the 1986 Census, 27% of all Western Australian women aged 15 years and over reported that they had had no children. In the 1996 Census, the proportion in this category had increased to 29%. These figures reflect, in part, the increasing number of women who choose not to have children.
For women in the middle to later years of their reproductive life, the proportions reporting no children increased between 1986 and 1996. For example, in the 30-34 year age group the proportion increased from 17% to 26%. Similarly, in the 35-39 year age group the proportion rose from 10% to 14%. However, the 25-29 year age group experienced the largest increase in women reporting no children, with 38% in 1986 and 52% in 1996. This was followed by the 20-24 age group, increasing from 67% to 75%.
FAMILY AND HOUSEHOLDS
In 1997, there were 694,400 households in Western Australia. Of these, 70% were family households (486,600), 25% were lone person households (173,400) and the remainder were group households (34,500).
In 1992, there were 334,100 families resident in the Perth Statistical Division (SD) and 125,200 families living in the remainder of the State. By 1997, the number of families had increased to 362,500 and 129,200, respectively. This represented an increase of 9% in the Perth SD and 3% for the remainder of the State.
FAMILY STRUCTURE, Statistical Division, 1992 and 1997
Between 1992 and 1997, one parent families increased by 19% (47,500 to 56,500) in the Perth SD and 51% (11,700 to 17,700) in the remainder of the State. During this period, families without children also increased, from 115,200 to 135,700 (8%) in the Perth SD and from 47,500 to 52,200 (10%) in the remainder of the State.
Although couple families with children decreased in both the remainder of the State and the Perth SD (10% and 0.6%, respectively), couple families with non-dependent children increased in the metropolitan region by 10%.
By 2021, the number of couple and one parent families in Western Australia is projected to increase to 712,200, representing an increase of 54%. The most common family type is projected to be couple families without children, 312,300 families or 44% of all families. Part of the growth in this family type is due to younger couples who choose to have children later and also older couples whose children have left home. The tendency towards smaller families will produce an increase in the number of couples who become 'empty nesters' earlier in their lives.
Couple families with children are projected to increase by just over a quarter to 289,500, or 40% of all families, in 2021.
The number of lone parent families is projected to increase to 110,400 in 2021, representing 16% of all families. The fastest growing family type is projected to be one parent families headed by a male parent, more than doubling from 7,300 in 1997 to 16,400 families in 2021. Similar growth is projected for one parent families headed by a female parent, increasing from 46,300 in 1997 to 94,000 in 2021.
PROJECTED FAMILIES, Western Australia
Lone person and group households
The fall in fertility over the last few decades has coincided with a rise in the number of non-family type households. Between 1992 and 1997, the number of females living alone in the Perth SD increased by 27% to 62,400 households. In the remainder of the State, the number of lone female households increased by half (50%) to 22,200. For both metropolitan and ex-metropolitan regions, the number of lone female households increased in the older age groups (45 years and over). The number of lone female households in the younger age groups (15-44 years) increased in the ex-metropolitan regions, but decreased slightly in the metropolitan region. The biggest growth in the metropolitan region was in the age group 65 years and over, which increased from 22,400 households in 1992 to 33,100 in 1997. For the ex-metropolitan region, the largest increase was in the 45-64 year age group, increasing from 3,900 to 7,200, during the same period.
LONE PERSON AND GROUP HOUSEHOLDS, Statistical Division
The number of lone male households also increased during this period, from 47,500 to 58,800 in the Perth SD and from 19,100 to 30,000 in the remainder of the State. While this increase was apparent in most age groups, the proportion of lone male households in the 15-24 year age group decreased by 5% in the metropolitan region and 10% in the ex-metropolitan regions. In the metropolitan region, the biggest growth in this type of household occurred in the 45-64 year age group, increasing from 12,300 in 1992 to 17,800 in 1997. For the ex-metropolitan regions, the largest growth in lone male households was in the 25-44 year age group (8,500 to 13,800 households).
The number of group households in Western Australia also grew between 1992 and 1997, increasing by just under a third to 25,200 households in the metropolitan region and more than doubling to 9,200 households in the ex-metropolitan regions.
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