Australian women having fewer children and later in life

Media Release

Australian women are having fewer children, and having them later in life according to data released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

Emily Walter, ABS head of demography said; “Today’s data continues a trend we’ve seen in births over the last 40 years, with the average age of both mothers and fathers steadily increasing since the mid 1970s.

“In 1975, less than 20 per cent of births were to mothers who were between 30 and 39 years old, but now nearly 60 per cent of births are to mothers in this age group.”

  1. Includes mothers aged 15 years or less.
  2. Includes mothers aged 49 years or more.

Australian women are also having fewer children. The total fertility rate has remained lower than the replacement rate (considered to be 2.1 babies per woman to replace her and her partner, in the absence of overseas migration) since 1976.

In 2022, this was 1.63 births per woman, which was lower than the 2021 rate of 1.70 births per woman, but higher than the 1.59 births per woman recorded in 2020.

“Although total fertility remains low, the fertility rate for women in their late 30s and early 40s has significantly increased.

“From 1991 to 2022, the fertility rate of mothers aged 35-39 years has almost doubled from 36.0 to 69.3 births per 1,000 women, and for mothers aged 40-44 years, it has nearly tripled from 5.5 to 15.8 births per 1,000 women.

In contrast, the fertility rate of teenage mothers has reached an all-time low of 6.8 births per 1,000 women, from 22.1 births per 1,000 women in 1991.” Ms Walter said.

The falling fertility rates of women aged under 30 years and the rising fertility rates of women in their thirties and early forties, are consistent with women having their first and subsequent births later in life.

This shift towards older parenthood largely follows from young people tending to reach the milestones which usually precede parenthood (i.e. leaving the parental home, gaining economic independence, and marrying or forming long-term de facto relationships) later than was seen in previous decades.   

In 2022:

  • Australia registered a total of 300,684 births, a decrease of over 9,000 from 2021 but higher than 2020 numbers.
  • Women aged 30-34 years had the highest fertility rate (114.9 births per 1,000 women or about 1 birth for every 9 women), followed by women aged 25-29 years (83.0 births per 1,000 women).
  • Of women aged 15-49 years, women in the 45-49 years cohort continue to have the lowest fertility rate (1.1 babies per 1,000 women).
  • The fertility rate of women aged 15-19 years was the lowest on record (6.8 babies per 1,000 women).
  • The Northern Territory recorded the highest total fertility rate (1.73 babies per woman), followed by New South Wales and Queensland with 1.71 babies per woman.
  • The Australian Capital Territory had the lowest total fertility rate (1.41 babies per woman).

Media notes

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