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Minister calls for national discussion on low fertility rates.



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Media Release Kevin Andrews Minister for Ageing

KA 103/2002 Friday November 8, 2002

MINISTER CALLS FOR NATIONAL DISCUSSION ON LOW FERTILITY RATES

AUSTRALIA'S low fertility rate is one of the main causes of our rapidly ageing population and we need a national discussion about the issue, Federal Minister for Ageing Kevin Andrews said today.

"There are two causes of our ageing population," Mr Andrews said. "Our fertility rate has been below replacement level for almost 30 years and Australians are living longer."

"As well as tackling the consequences of our ageing population, such as the huge drop in workforce growth in 15 years' time, we also need to address the causes, and that means the low fertility rate."

Mr Andrews was responding to the release of the Australian Bureau of Statistics' annual Births report which revealed that the fertility rate had fallen from 1.75 to 1.73 in one year and the median age of new mothers was 30.7 years. Australia's fertility rate is expected to drop further to 1.5.

"I acknowledge there are limitations to what governments can do about boosting fertility rates, but it is important we do something," Mr Andrews said.

"We have an obligation to future generations and we ignore the falling fertility rate at our peril.

"Every year we fail to tackle the declining fertility rate is a precious year wasted so far as future generations and the economic welfare of the country is concerned."

Mr Andrews said paid maternity leave was not the answer and issues to be discussed include:

Why women are delaying having children, and having fewer children. ● How we encourage childless couples to have children and also how we encourage families which have one or two children to have another. ●

With people marrying later, how we can make it more attractive for people to marry in their twenties while still allowing them to meet all their other aspirations. ●

"Whatever we do, it will take at least a generation to turn the figures around," Mr Andrews said. "But we should acknowledge this is an important issue and start to discuss it now.''

Media Contact: Felicity Dargan (Press Secretary) 0409 550 446

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Published on Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing web site 11 November 2002 Commonwealth Department of Health and Ageing