3101.0 - Australian Demographic Statistics, Jun 2002  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 12/12/2002   
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Feature Article - Fertility by country of birth

This article was published in Australian Demographic Statistics, June Quarter 2002 (ABS cat. no. 3101.0).


Nearly one quarter of births registered in Australia in 2000 occurred to women who were born overseas. This level has remained constant over the past decade.

During 2000, women resident in Australia who were born overseas had a Total Fertility Rate (TFR) of 1.73 babies per woman, marginally lower than the fertility of women born in Australia at 1.74. Between 1992 and 1997, the TFR of women born overseas had been higher than for women born in Australia peaking at a 3% difference in 1993. Since then the TFRs of both groups of women have declined and since 1998 women born overseas have had a lower TFR than women born in Australia.


Within the Australian female resident population who were born overseas and aged 15-49 years in 2000, there was considerable variation in fertility of women from different country of birth groups.

Women born in Lebanon living in Australia had the highest TFR of 3.5 babies per woman. The next highest TFRs were for women born in Cambodia (2.6), Turkey (2.5) and Egypt (2.3).

Women in Australia who were born in Hong Kong had the lowest TFR recorded, just less than one baby per woman. Women born in Poland had the next lowest TFR (1.1), followed by those born in Singapore, Malaysia and Greece (each 1.3).

Many of the country of birth groups in Australia with low TFRs were from South-East and North-East Asia: for example, women born in Singapore and women born in Malaysia each had a TFR of 1.3 in 2000. One factor keeping the fertility low for some of these groups is the high proportion of female students in their populations in Australia. Overseas students on long-term residence in Australia would be expected to have very low fertility.


Current fertility levels indicate that many women in Australia who were born overseas appear to adopt a similar fertility level as those who were born in Australia. In other words, they do not necessarily keep the same level of fertility as women in their country of birth. There are several reasons why this may happen. The attitudes and situations of the women in Australia who were born overseas may not necessarily be similar to those in their country of birth. The fertility of the women migrating to Australia may also be affected by their reasons for migrating such as study or work and by their age at arrival. One exception to this was women born in Lebanon who have a much higher level of fertility in Australia (3.5) than the women in Lebanon (2.2). Other women in Australia born in countries such as Turkey continue to have a similar level of fertility in Australia (2.5) as women in Turkey (2.3).

When comparing the level of fertility of women born overseas living in Australia to that of women in their country of birth, the most extreme difference noted was for women from Laos. These women had a similar level of fertility to the women born in Australia (1.9) while the fertility of women in Laos was much higher (4.8). Similarly, the fertility of women born in Papua New Guinea but living in Australia (1.8) was nowhere near as high as the fertility of women in Papua New Guinea (4.3).

Conversely, women born in Spain living in Australia also had a fertility rate similar to the women born in Australia (1.7) but the fertility of women in Spain was much lower (1.1).

TOTAL FERTILITY RATES, Selected countries of birth of women in Australia and international comparison

Graph: Total Fertility Rates, various countries

(a) For the Australian TFR, Former Yugoslav Republics consists of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Slovenia, the former Yugoslav Republics of Serbia and Montenegro, and Yugoslavia n.f.d. For the United Nations TFR data refers to Yugoslavia.

(b) Source: ABS, Birth Registrations, 2000. Estimated female resident population by country of birth at 30 June 2000.

(c) Source: United Nations Statistical Division's web site.


Further information about fertility and births in general is available in Births, Australia, 2001 (cat. no. 3301.0) released on 7 November 2002.