At a meeting in Melbourne tomorrow, visiting world-renowned anthropologist and demographer Virginia Abernethy will address why Australian birth rates are relatively low at a time of economic growth.
Virginia Abernethy is an anthropologist whose area of specialisation is immigration and population research. She is a leading exponent of the “Fertility Opportunity Theory”. This is a population fertility theory, in contrast to the more universally accepted demographic transition theory, that hypothesizes that parents have a biological urge to have large families and that they will see them, resources permitting.
According to Professor Abernethy, people who perceive expanding economic opportunity raise their family size target and desire more children.
If the economy is supposedly booming, why are Australian families getting smaller?
Professor Abernethy believes that, despite the Federal Treasurer’s upbeat spin on the economy and growth in GDP, Australians do not feel prosperous enough to support large families.
“In fact, they’re not well off,” says Professor Abernethy. “They have been getting poorer since the 1970s when growth in per capita energy production began to fail to keep up with population growth.
“Australians are aware at a deep level that the fundamentals are deteriorating and have been for decades,” she says.
“Not so long ago, one wage-earner’s take-home pay was sufficient to support a middle class family. Over half of mothers with very young children are now forced to work outside the home in order to make ends meet. Too often, mothers and fathers must choose between living on the edge of poverty so that a parent can care for their children, and a more secure standard of living that consigns children to long hours of day-care. Many couples deal with this dilemma by limiting themselves to one child or no children,” she says.
Virginia Abernethy will address a public meeting on 3 February 2003 at Prosper Australia, 1st Floor, 27 Hardware Lane, Melbourne at 8pm.
Dr Peter Carter, President, SPA (Vic) Ph: 03 9707 2098
Sheila Newman Ph: 03 9783 5047