Herald Sun

Women say no to babies

By LEELA de KRETSER, family reporter
Herald Sun (Australia)

AUSTRALIA'S fertility rate is at its lowest level ever as more and more Victorian women say no to babies.

The Bureau of Statistics' Social Trends 2002 report released yesterday, estimated nearly a quarter of Australian women would never have a baby.

Victoria is leading the nation in the child-free trend, with 31 per cent of women of child-bearing age expected not to have a child.

National fertility rates for 2000 plummeted to an all-time low at just 1.7 babies for each woman, compared with 2.1 during the Great Depression and 3.5 during the 1960s.

Victoria had the second lowest rate of fertility in the country at 1.63 babies a woman.

Tasmania recorded a lower rate at 1.61.

The report, which looked at trends in the home, health care, education, work, income and housing also found:

THE percentage of first-time mothers aged 35-plus has almost doubled in 10 years.

VICTORIA recorded the highest rate of births by mothers older than 35.

THE divorce rate fell from 2.8 to 2.6 each 1000 people from 1999 to 2000.

MORE than 29 per cent of babies were born outside of marriage.

12.8 PER CENT of Victorians are over 65, and Strathbogie and the Mornington Peninsula house the state's oldest populations.

AUSTRALIA could see even further reductions in child-bearing if the labour force participation of women continues to increase.

"Fertility in parts of Australia (notably Melbourne and the Australian Capital Territory) has already fallen to 1.6 babies per woman, and could decline further," the report said.

"The possibility that Australia's fertility could fall to 1.3 should not be discounted, given that the difference between a fertility rate of 1.3 and the middle-level fertility scenario (1.6) equates to around a third of Australian women having one less child."

Under a very low fertility scenario of 1.3 babies per woman by 2008-9, Australia's population would peak at 23.2 million in 2039 and then decline to 22.9 million by 2051.

The report identified career, family and financial security as the main reasons women were choosing not to have children, sentiments echoed by childless women.

"There are so many things I would like to do in life and I just feel there's no way to do them and fit children in," Susan Moore, 32, told the Herald Sun.

Mrs Moore, the author of controversial book Childfree Zone said most women she had spoken to listed freedom as their main reason for not having a child.

"People were looking for more freedom in their lives," she said.

Mrs Moore said other motives for child-free living included fears of over-population and passing on family illnesses.

© 2002 Herald and Weekly Times