Australian birth rates have fallen to their lowest level in 10 years. A total of 299,700 births were registered in Australia in 2014, down from 308,100 in 2013.
Late last year, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) released figures showing that the Australian birth rate was an average of 1.8 per female. In 2013, the rate was 1.88 and it has been declining steadily since 2008.
For the last 20 years or so, Australian birth rates have fallen below the replacement rate - meaning that without migration the country’s population would eventually start to decrease.
It’s tricky to pinpoint the reasons behind this declining birth rate. The Government is currently addressing a number of issues, such as improving family assistance to make maximum choice available to parents balancing work and family responsibilities. It aims to ensure that employers and employees have the flexibility to reach agreeable working arrangements, including part time or flexible work.
An ageing population
A declining birth rate also exacerbates Australia’s aging population. Treasury statistics show that in 2002 there were more than 5 people of working age to support every person aged over 65. By 2042, there will only be 2.5 people of working age supporting each person aged 65+. The latest Intergenerational Report (IGR) predicts that over the next 40 years, the proportion of the population over 65 years old will almost double to around 25%.
Can immigration have an impact?
A Migration Council of Australia report on the Economic Impact of Migration recently proposed that Australia needs to encourage more migrants to boost its economy and sustain future growth.
The report predicted that Australia needs 250,000 migrants a year to maintain economic success and remain competitive internationally.
The 2015 Intergenerational Report recommends skilled migration that is closely targeted and attuned to economic circumstances. As migrants are mostly of workforce age, migration could certainly assist in securing workforce growth. What’s more, skilled migrants will raise general levels of expertise and productivity.
The Government has already been focusing on attracting highly skilled migrants who will help to address Australia’s declining and ageing population. Skilled temporary migration has been increased via the employer sponsored 457 visa and temporary visas for international students, and policies are in place to encourage innovation through entrepreneurial and research talent from overseas.
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