3301.0 - Births, Australia, 2010 Quality Declaration 
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 25/10/2011   
   Page tools: Print Print Page Print all pages in this productPrint All



The common definition of fertility refers to the biological capacity to bear or father children, however, the term is often interchanged according to the context in which it is being used. In a demographic context (the study of population and population change) the term fertility relates to a person's actual reproductive outcomes, a concept of adding to the population through births.

Information on the size and distribution of the population is an important component of social and economic planning in providing services to the community. In Australia, population estimates are used for a wide variety of purposes, including the determination of the number of seats in the House of Representatives for each state and territory, as well as in the distribution of federal government funds to state, territory and local governments. The accuracy of population estimates is therefore of paramount importance. In addition, the analysis of fertility provides information and insight into previous, current and possible future trends of the population, which form the basis of many decisions regarding the future of Australia.

Within Australia a number of organisations collect and report information about births and fertility, such as the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW); and state and territory Health Departments. As these collections are used for a number of different purposes, the scope of the collections differ. ABS births information is primarily used in the production of population estimates, as well as measures of fertility. For these purposes, only live births are counted. The AIHW National Perinatal Epidemiology and Statistic Unit's National Perinatal Data Collection (NPDC), provides epidemiological information on mothers' pregnancies and childbirth, and the characteristics and outcomes of their babies. This includes information on live births and neonatal deaths, as the health related aspects of births and fertility are an important focus of this collection.


The United Nations (UN) provides globally recognised guidelines and standards in the field of demography, as well as for the process of data collection and dissemination of vital events, which include births, deaths and marriages. These guidelines outline the importance of civil registration systems in order to collect information and are published in Principles and Recommendations for a Vital Statistics System. ABS uses these guidelines as a basis for its vital statistics collections.

The UN also produces the Handbook on the Collection of Fertility and Mortality Data, which provides detailed information on available methods, rather than specific instructions, that may be used to collect data on births, deaths and population. This publication also describes how data produced by these methods may be used to derive basic fertility and mortality indicators. With these guidelines, data can be collected and disseminated according to the needs of users.


In Australia, the registration of births is the responsibility of state and territory Registrars of Births, Deaths and Marriages and is based on data provided on an information form completed by the parent(s) of the child. This form is the basis of data provided to the ABS for compilation and publication of aggregate statistics on live births and fertility rates. Most data items are collected in all states and territories and therefore statistics at the national level are available for a range of characteristics (see Appendix: Characteristics Available).

In the field of demography, fertility is used to describe the actual number of children born alive and the effectiveness or performance of the population to replace itself through reproduction. ABS measures of fertility (such as the number of children ever born to women, collected in the census, and age-specific and total fertility rates) are therefore based on live births. Information on the biological potential to conceive or reproduce is collected by a number of other sources, which have a greater focus on the epidemiological and reproductive health aspects of childbirth.

ABS collects and reports on perinatal death statistics in Perinatal Statistics, Australia (cat. no. 3304.0) and previously, in Causes of Death, Australia (cat. no. 3303.0). Perinatal deaths comprise stillbirths (fetal deaths) and deaths of infants within the first 28 days of life (neonatal deaths).


Australian Institute of Health and Welfare

The AIHW National Perinatal Data Collection collects and reports information on pregnancy, childbirth, and the characteristics of mothers and their babies, resulting from births in hospitals, birth centres and the community. These data are collected from perinatal administrative and clinical record systems and forwarded to the relevant state and territory health authority. Midwives and other staff use information from mothers, as well as hospital and other records, to complete notification forms for each birth of at least 400 grams birth weight or at least twenty weeks gestation. Characteristics regarding the pregnancy, labour and birth, and data items relating to the baby, such as birth status, sex and birth weight, are included.

This information is published annually in Australia's Mothers and Babies, and is used to inform policy decision making and the provision of health services, by providing epidemiological information and statistics about women who have given birth to liveborn or stillborn babies, and their babies, in a specified year.

World Health Organisation

The World Health Organisation (WHO) provides global monitoring on, and produces information about, reproductive health. A number of indicators marking health status, service provision, resource availability and monitoring of services and programmes, are reported on by the WHO. Consistent with UN definitions, fertility indicators produced by the WHO are based on information on live births.

Australian and New Zealand Neonatal Network

The Australian and New Zealand Neonatal Network (ANZNN) focusses on high-risk newborns registered to neonatal intensive care units (NICUs). The ANZNN publishes an annual report on babies within these units and their mothers, in order to provide data as a basis for clinical programmes and research.