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RECENT FERTILITY TRENDS IN VICTORIA
Across Australia, all states and territories recorded an increase in the TFR between 1999 and 2009, with the exception of the Northern Territory which recorded a slight decrease. However, TFRs varied substantially between the states and territories. In 2009, Victoria's TFR was the second lowest in Australia, just above the Australian Capital Territory's TFR of 1.74 babies per woman. The highest TFR was recorded in Tasmania (2.18 babies per woman), followed closely by Queensland (2.12 babies per woman).
Mother's age at childbirth
Over recent decades, there has been a trend for women in Victoria to delay childbirth. This is evident from the increasing proportion of births attributed to women aged 30 and over, from 53% (31,334) of all births in 1999 to 60% (42,723) in 2009. This trend was notably higher than for Australia overall, for which only 54% of births were attributed to women aged 30 and over in 2009. The median age of women giving birth in Victoria has also increased from 30.4 years in 1999 to 31.5 years in 2009. This has coincided with an increase in the median age of fathers, from 32.6 years in 1999, to 33.7 years in 2009.
The increase in Victoria's TFR over the last decade can be attributed to the rise in the age-specific fertility rate (ASFR) of women aged 30 and over, which has more than offset a decline in the fertility rate of women under 30. Up until 1996, fertility levels in Victoria were highest among women aged 25 to 29. In 1997, women aged 30 to 34 had the highest fertility levels, and have continued to record the highest fertility rate of all age groups since then. Since 1998, the fertility rate for women aged 35 to 39 has consistently exceeded that of women aged 20 to 24.
Women aged 35 to 39 experienced the largest increase in the ASFR, from 49.9 births per 1,000 women in 1999, to 74.4 births per 1,000 women in 2009. The largest decrease was recorded for women aged 25 to 29 years, declining from 99.6 births per 1,000 women in 1999, to 92.8 births per 1,000 women in 2009.
In Victoria, fertility patterns varied between the different Statistical Divisions (SD) across the state.
In 2009, Melbourne had the lowest TFR of the state (1.77 babies per woman), while the highest TFRs were recorded in Goulburn and East Gippsland (both 2.23 babies per woman). All Victorian SDs recorded an increase in their TFR between 2004 and 2009, however there was considerable variation between different regions. Wimmera recorded the smallest increase from 2.04 to 2.07 babies per woman (an increase of 1.5%), while the Central Highlands recorded the largest increase from 1.78 to 2.02 babies per woman (an increase of 13.5%).
The map below shows changes in fertility rates for Victorian SDs between 2004 and 2009.
There was also a substantial difference between the ASFRs of women in Melbourne and those living in the rest of Victoria. Women in Melbourne were much more likely to give birth later in life than women living in the rest of Victoria, and less likely to give birth in their teenage years or twenties. The largest difference in ASFRs were between women aged 25 to 29 (85.6 births per 1,000 women in Melbourne compared to 128.0 births per 1,000 women in the rest of Victoria). In contrast, the ASFR for women aged 35 to 39 in Melbourne was 80.5 per 1,000 women, compared to 60.3 per 1,000 women for the rest of Victoria. The trend for women in Melbourne to delay childbirth is also reflected in a higher median age of Melbourne mothers (32.0 years) at childbirth, compared to mothers living in other parts of Victoria (30.1 years).
The patterns of ASFRs for women living in Melbourne compared to those living in the rest of Victoria are presented in the graph below.
Although both the Victorian and Australian TFR have increased over the last decade, each remains below replacement level. Victorian women, on average, have fewer children during their reproductive lifetime than women in most other states and territories. The implications of lower fertility rates for the size and structure of the population may impact on a wide range of social and economic policy decisions now and into the future.
For further information about fertility in Victoria (including LGA and SLA level data), as well as explanatory notes and a detailed glossary of terms, see Births, Australia 2009 (cat. no. 3301.0).
1 This spotlight includes commentary on movements in estimates between different time periods, as well as other comparisons between categories or geographic regions. Testing of statistical significance has not been undertaken, therefore some of the commentary may refer to movements or comparisons which are not statistically significant.