3301.0 - Births, Australia, 1999  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 16/11/2000   
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November 16, 2000
Embargoed: 11:30 AM (AEST)
Many Women Are Delaying Motherhood: ABS
Nearly half of all mothers (47 per cent) who registered a baby in 1999 were aged 30 years and over, according to figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) today. This was up from one quarter (24 per cent) in 1979.

By 1999, women aged 30-34 years had overtaken those aged 25-29 in having the highest fertility rate (108.5 babies per 1,000 women). The age of women having a baby has steadily increased over time. A mother's median age (where half of mothers were below and half above that age) has increased from 26.5 years in 1979 to 29.7 in 1999, the highest since the beginning of the twentieth century. ABS projections assume the median age of mothers will reach 31.2 years by 2008.

The number of births registered in Australia during 1999 (248,900) declined marginally compared to 1998, reflecting the continuation of declining fertility in Australia. This fall in fertility is associated with the decline in the number of births to young women. On 1999 rates, a woman can expect to have 1.75 babies in her life, well below the level needed for a woman to replace herself and her partner (2.1 births per woman). Australia's fertility has been at below replacement level since 1976. Currently, it is lower than that of the United States of America (2.0) and New Zealand (1.9) but above the levels of Canada (1.5), Japan (1.4) and many European countries such as Italy (1.2).

Of all births registered in 1999, 43 per cent were first births, 32 per cent were second births and the remaining (25 per cent) were third or higher births. If these trends were to continue, it is estimated that over a quarter (26 per cent) of all women would remain childless at the end of their reproductive life.

Women living in the capital cities have lower fertility than those living in the State/Territory balances. On 1997-99 rates, Melbourne had the lowest fertility rate of all the capital cities followed by Adelaide, Canberra, Perth and Brisbane. Women living in remote areas of Australia can expect to have between 2.1 and 2.4 babies per woman, compared to those who lived in areas of high accessibility (1.76).

Four per cent of total births were identified as Indigenous, with the fertility of Indigenous women estimated to be at least 2.1 babies per woman. Indigenous mothers having a baby (median age of 24.4 years) were younger than all mothers (29.7 years). Indigenous women in the Northern Territory had the highest fertility at 2.5 babies per woman. Indigenous babies in 1997 weighed less than other babies, with an average birth weight of 3,146 grams compared to 3,356 grams for all babies.

Further information can be found in Births, Australia 1999 (cat. no. 3301.0) available at ABS bookshops. The summary of the publication can be found on this site. If you wish to purchase a copy of this publication, contact the ABS Bookshop in your capital city.