Australia is experiencing a post-COVID baby boom, according to recent statistics, after an historically low number of births during the pandemic.
In 2020, Australia’s fertility rate dropped to an all-time low of 1.58 births per woman.
But the latest data shows a rebound in the birthrate to 1.66 per woman, though a demographer says it likely will not rise any further.
The statistics were released ahead of the annual population statement the federal government will issue on Friday, which will confirm the small but certain rise.
Federal Treasurer Jim Chalmers welcomed signs of a post-COVID baby boom.
Speaking in Brisbane on Monday, Mr Chalmers said: “We want the right balance between homegrown population growth and a sensible migration program.
“At the same time as we make sure that we’ve got the kind of workforce that can support an ageing population.
“For some time it’s been clear to us that when you’ve got an ageing population, the absolute best thing you can get is a higher fertility rate.”
Numbers are ‘encouraging’
A demographer agreed with Mr Chalmers that the numbers were encouraging, but said he doubts Australia can increase its fertility rate any further.
Speaking on ABC Radio, the University of Melbourne’s Professor Peter McDonald said changes to women’s lifestyles were part of the reason birthrates were declining overall.
“Women are certainly increasing their education levels greatly. Back 20 years ago, John Howard was talking about one-and-a-half incomes with the wife working part time. That’s becoming increasingly less the case,” he said.
Mr McDonald said the birthrate has likely peaked for Australia.
“Because Australia runs a large migration program and migrants come in at very young ages, they have their babies. And that compensates for the deficit of births,” he said.
“Australia’s population without migration would start to fall in about 10 years’ time.”
Additional population projections and data are expected to be released later this week.