Australia's families are smallest ever

Posted: 21 November 2002

The total fertility rate in Australia dropped to 1.73 children per woman in 2001, the lowest level ever recorded in that country, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. The total fertility rate represents the average number of children women are having today.

Australia's fertility rate peaked in 1961 at 3.55 children per woman and has been declining ever since, due in part to the widespread use of oralcontraceptives. Australia's fertility rate has been below 2.1 children per woman - the level necessary to sustain the current population - since 1976.

According to a report released in November 2002 by the Commonwealth Scientific & Industrial Research Organization, if Australia's current fertility and immigration rates continue, the country's population will level off in 2050 at approximately 25 million people. In addition to the low fertility rate, the average age of women who gave birth last year in Australia was 30, the highest average recorded so far.

The Australian government in recent years has introduced policies such as a "baby bonus" direct payment programme that it hopes will boost the country's total fertility rate. Australian lawmakers are also considering a bill that would provide 14 weeks of paid maternity leave for all women.

Despite the decline, Australia's fertility rate remains higher than rates in some other developed nations; the total fertility rate in the United States is 1.9 children per woman, and the rate in Japan is 1.3.

SOURCE: Melbourne Age, Kaiser Daily Reproductive Health Report and IPPF