Lower birth rates are a welcome trend for Australia
Australia’s birth rate is declining, but this is no cause for concern, according to the president of Sustainable Population Australia, the Hon. Sandra Kanck.
Ms Kanck was speaking in response to the release of new ABS data which shows that the 2019 fertility rate was 1.66 births per woman. Fertility has been declining gradually over the past decade, after rising to 1.97 in the previous decade under the baby bonus. It has only recently fallen below its pre-baby-bonus level.
“Some in the media have adopted a tone of panic, suggesting we need to coax people to have more babies. But this latest fertility number is well within the expectations of the federal government’s Population Statement released last weekend. The Statement assumes fertility is gradually reducing and that may well continue for a decade or so,” Ms Kanck said.
“What needs to be clearly understood is that this does not mean our overall population size will stop growing any time soon. According to the government’s own data, Australia’s population will keep growing for another generation – to around 2045 – even in absence of ANY net overseas migration during that time.
“Let that sink in: even if we had ZERO net migration, our population would continue to grow in size slowly until around 2045.
“There is no depopulation crisis and there is no ageing population crisis. Europe has had fertility rates lower than this for decades, without any shrinkage of the workforce. Indeed, it has been good for Europeans, with much lower unemployment and underemployment than Australia has suffered with its workforce rapidly growing.”
Sustainable Population Australia’s discussion paper Silver tsunami or silver lining? Why we should not fear an ageing population shows that neither boosting birth rates nor ramping up immigration again are long-term solutions to population ageing.
“If we maintained the birth rates and immigration levels of recent years, a much more crowded Australia would still have 29% of people over 65 by the end of this century. If population growth in Australia were to completely end, the proportion of people aged 65 and over would most likely settle at around 30%. If we let the population decline, that ratio might get to 33%, but at no point would people over-65 outnumber younger adults, even if the population were shrinking steadily.”
“The considerable cost of extra infrastructure to support population growth outweighs the small extent to that population growth could lessen pension, health-care and aged-care burdens due to an ageing population.
“It is time for Australian governments to heed the wishes of the Australian people. Opinion polls repeatedly show that a majority of Australian do not want our population to grow much beyond its present size of nearly 26 million. They do not agree with the idea of a Big Australia. Our future does not lie in perpetual, unsustainable, population growth.
“Reduced population growth will bring many benefits, including less pressure on housing prices, less congestion in the big cities, less pressure on state and federal budgets struggling to keep up with infrastructure demands caused by high population growth, more rapid reduction of CO2 emissions, less loss of agricultural land from urban sprawl, and the easing of the relentless destructive impacts on our natural environment and threatened species.”