Media Release by Senator the Hon Amanda Vanstone

Australia’s Low Fertility – Dramatic Long-term Effect

Minister for Family and Community Services, Senator Amanda Vanstone, today welcomed the release of Low Fertility: A Discussion Paper which will be a valuable tool for ongoing research on the causes and impacts of Australia’s declining fertility rate.

Senator Vanstone said the paper showed Australia’s fertility rate was at its highest point in the twentieth century in 1961 at 3.6 dropping to 1.75 in 1999, while the replacement fertility rate is around 2.1.

“The fertility rate in Australia, as in all other developed countries, has been falling and these latest figures show it is at the lowest level seen in the twentieth century,” said Senator Vanstone.

“Although the situation in Australia is not as serious as in most European and many Asian countries, the paper indicates that Australia is currently confronted with a future where a much smaller number of women will be available to have children.

“Many women will also delay having their first child until they are older and the number of children each woman is likely to have may continue to fall.

“A change in the fertility rate has potentially significant implications in society for many decades after it occurs as it may affect future growth of the workforce and the economy.

“The Howard Government has made a committed effort to provide support for parents choices in raising their children and combining work and family responsibilities,” said Senator Vanstone.

Senator Vanstone said the Government had already provided $2.5 billion in additional support for families through Family Tax Benefit and Child Care Benefit (CCB) as part of the recent tax reform.

“The introduction of CCB had been a great success, with the number of families using child care increasing dramatically after it was introduced in July 2000.

“Access to high quality, affordable child care is vital for families when the mother wants to return to the workforce or study, the Government has made this transition easier, because we have not only increased child care options and places, we have made it cheaper.”

Senator Vanstone said the work undertaken in her department has already lead to valuable discussion with government departments, researchers and non-government organisations in meetings and workshops.

“Unlike the Labor Party, this Government is committed to practical support for women that will allow them to make the choices they want to make,” said Senator Vanstone