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Australians having fewer babies than ever

Melissa Iaria, December 9, 2021 6:30PM Kids News

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Australia’s birthrate hit a record low in 2020, unlike in 2017 when these babies were born at Campbeltown Hospital in NSW. Picture: AAP Image media_cameraAustralia’s birthrate hit a record low in 2020, unlike in 2017 when these babies were born at Campbeltown Hospital in NSW. Picture: AAP Image


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Australia’s birthrate* has plunged to a record low amid the Covid-19 pandemic, with Victoria leading the decline.

There were 294,369 births registered last year, down 11,463 births, or 3.7 per cent, from 2019, Australian Bureau of Statistics data reveals.

The total fertility rate* was 1.58 babies per woman, decreasing from 1.95 babies per woman in 2010.

Victoria, which had the longest lockdown during the pandemic, had the lowest birthrate, with 1.43 births per woman. There were 3846 fewer births in the state, a drop of 4.9 per cent. NSW dropped by 3330 births, down 3.4 per cent, while Queensland declined by 2279 births, a drop of 3.7 per cent.

South Australia fell by 952 births, down 4.9 per cent, Western Australia fell by 1090 births, down 3.3 per cent, and the ACT declined by 127 births, down 2 per cent.

“The record low total fertility rate can be attributed to fewer births and birth registrations in most jurisdictions* in a year marked by Covid-19 disruptions,” ABS demography director Beidar Cho said.

Cute Baby in Cloth media_cameraThere were fewer babies born in all states and territories except the Northern Territory and Tasmania in 2020.

The Northern Territory and Tasmania were the only places where births increased.

For Australian women in general, the total fertility rate was 1.58 births per woman in 2020, but for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander women it was 2.25.

The nation’s birthrate has fallen slowly over the past 30 years, from 1.9 births per woman in 1990, as women have babies later in life.

The fall is most pronounced* in women aged 15 to 19, where the fertility rate dropped by nearly two-thirds to 7.8 per 1000 women. The fertility rate of women aged 20-24 also fell sharply.

However, the fertility rate of women aged 40-44 has almost tripled over that time to 15.2 per 1000 women. Women aged 30-34 continue to have the highest fertility rate, with 110 babies per 1000 women, followed by women aged 25-29, with 79.7 babies per 1000 women.

Pregnant woman in striped t-shirt sitting on the bed touching her belly and relaxing. Close up media_cameraAustralian women are waiting until they are older to have a baby and having fewer babies. Picture: iStock

The long-term fall in fertility of younger mums, as well as the continued rise in fertility of older mums, reflected a shift towards women having children later in life, Ms Cho said.

Australian National University demographer Liz Allen told the ABC the decline in the average number of children being born per woman was a result of increased education and paid employment for women.

She said women were starting families later and consequently having fewer children, while there was also an increase in people choosing not to have children at all.

Meanwhile, billionaire Elon Musk has called on mankind to save civilisation by having more babies.

“There are not enough people. I can’t emphasise this enough; there are not enough people,” said the owner of Tesla and SpaceX, who has six children.

“One of the biggest risks to civilisation is rapidly declining birthrate.

“So many people, including smart people, think … the population is growing out of control. It’s completely the opposite.

“Please, look at the numbers. If people don’t have more children, civilisation is going to crumble.”


  • birthrate/fertility rate: the number of babies born to each woman on average
  • jurisdictions: areas, such as states
  • pronounced: noticeable


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  1. Which state recorded the biggest decline in births last year?
  2. Which were the only two areas where births increased last year?
  3. What was the overall fertility rate for Australian women last year?
  4. What was the overall fertility rate for Australian women in 1990?
  5. Which billionaire has called on mankind to have more babies to save civilisation?


1. Create a Graph
Create a graph that shows the differences between the birthrates of each state of Australia.

Time: allow 20 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Science

2. Extension
Do you agree with Elon Musk that people need to have more children? Write a list of reasons that support, or help to prove, your point of view.

Time: allow 15 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Mathematics

Opener Up-Level It
Make a list of all the openers in the article. Pick three that repeat and see if you can replace them with another word, or shuffle the order of the sentence to bring a new opener to the front.

Don’t forget to re-read the sentence to make sure it still makes sense, and that it actually sounds better.

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