Should Declining Fertility Rates be a Cause for Concern in Australia?
Australia has experienced a decline in fertility rates since the 1960s when the fertility rate peaked. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), the total fertility rate has remained below the replacement level since 1976 (ABS 2013). ABS also observed that women of all ages, occupation, or education level are having fewer children now than in the past. Another research dubbed “Battering the Evaluation of Care Health (BEACH)” revealed that 1.3 per 1000 encounters in hospitals between 2007 and 2012 were attributed to infertility (Britt, Harrison & Zhang, 2012) Majority, 81.6% of the infertility cases were reported in women. The most worrying revelation by BEACH was that almost half, 49.8 of infertility cases were referred. Meaning, the affected people needed specialized treatment. This is an indication that infertility is an underpinning health problem in Australia. Therefore, there is every reason for Australians to worry about the declining fertility rates.
A declining fertility rate imperils the future stability of the economy and wellbeing of the population. A low TFR means that, after some time, the dependency ratio becomes unsustainable. Fewer people will be working at any given time to support the retired in terms of social security benefits. A lower proportion of the working population reduces the number of taxpayers providing revenue to the government. As a result, government may scale down its services due to lack of funds. With declining fertility, the overall population will also decline. This affects the economy in that fewer goods will be produced. Consumption will also fall. Low fertility also brings social problems. As the aged outnumber the young, there will not be enough young people to care for them. Putting them into homes for the elderly increases the burden on
Australians should be concerned about fertility rates because the trend is not likely to be reversed any time sooner. This is because the number of women and men who are opting for studies instead of starting families is also growing. According to Mitchell & Gray, the tendency to delay family responsibilities is remarkably noticeable among women with high educational and economic status who put career advancement ahead of starting a family (2004). As feminism and other social changes, which are antithetical to the traditional sense of family, gain ground, TFR will remain low. Reactions to this level of TFR are mixed with some people arguing that it is good for the country since a small population prevents environmental degradation. They add that a larger proportion of the aged relative to the workforce should not be viewed only negatively since the old still contribute to the economy by advising the young, providing childcare and providing consumption dollars (Birthrate in Australia). However, this situation should be a cause for concern due to the economic and social ramifications of imbalances in the demographic profile of the country.
A declining fertility rate should concern everyone because it puts the viability of the economy at stake. The economy needs a growing population to sustain economic growth and prosper (Sheehan 2008). Older people also need the social support provided by the younger generation in order to enhance their wellbeing. In addition, low fertility rate is a sign of great health problem in Australian society. Hence, Australians of all races, ethnicities, religions, and class should focus their attention to infertility problem.
ABS, 2001, Australia’s fertility rate: trends and issues, available at: < http://dss.gov.au >
Birthrate in Australia: Should it concern the government? n.d., viewed 18 November 2013: <http://www.mindrelief.net/birth_rate_in_australia.html >
Britt, H., Zhang, C., & Harrison, C. 2012, Bettering the Evaluation and Care of Health, viewed 18 November 2013: http://www.racgp.org.au/afp/2012/october/infertility/
Mitchel, D, & Gray, E 2004, Declining Fertility: Intentions, Attitudes and Aspirations, Available from: < http://sagepub.com >
Sheehan, C 2008, The truth about Australia's birth rate, viewed 18 November 2013 <http://newsweekly.com.au/article.php?id=3520>