Media Release by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Australian fertility at 25-year high

Births in Australia are at a 25-year high with around 285,000 babies born in 2007, reflecting an estimated total fertility rate of 1.93 babies per woman.

The Productivity Commission’s Recent Trends in Australian Fertility Paper attributes much of this rise to older women “catching up” on babies they postponed when they were younger. This has shown up as higher fertility rates for older women.

The paper points to buoyant economic conditions and more flexible working arrangements as contributing factors to the higher rates.

The paper also highlights that family payments are important for parent and child wellbeing, rather than significantly influencing fertility rates.

The report confirms the Rudd Government’s commitment to ensuring payments and working arrangements support families’ choices.

We understand the significant pressures on working families including the costs of raising children and the need to gear family support to the best interests of children.

This is why we are committed to child-centred family policies, including increasing the Child Care Tax Rebate from 30 to 50 percent and paying it quarterly, introducing an Education Tax Refund and supporting families through Family Tax Benefits.

The Productivity Commission is also examining ways the Government can provide improved support to parents with newborn children.

The Paper suggests that Australia is in a ‘safe zone’ of fertility and doesn’t have a fertility crisis, with fertility at the highest level since the early 1980s.

The Paper points to concerning increases in fertility rates among 15-19 years olds since 2004 in the Northern Territory and South Australia. For this age group there has been a 7.2 per cent increase in fertility rates in the Northern Territory and a 3.2 per cent increase in South Australia.

This period coincides with the introduction of the Baby Bonus and the Paper suggests the Baby Bonus ‘may have stimulated teenage pregnancies’ in the Northern Territory.

In the 2008-09 Budget, the Government made significant improvements to the Baby Bonus by introducing 13 fortnightly instalments, instead of paying the Baby Bonus in a $5,000 lump sum.

In Northern Territory Emergency Response (NTER) communities the Government income manages 100 per cent of the Baby Bonus to ensure that the payments are spent on essentials for children.

The Government is funding income management trials in the Perth suburb of Cannington and the Kimberley, which will give child protection authorities the power to recommend to Centrelink that income support and family payments are quarantined to be used for the benefit of children.

These trials will include vulnerable parents, including teenagers, and provide for income management of up to 100 per cent of the Baby Bonus.

These trials will inform a possible national program of targeted income management for vulnerable families.

The Recent Trends in Australian Fertility Paper can be found on the Productivity Commission website