Births in Australia

""

Number of births and fertility rate

The number of births in Australia peaked in 2016 at 311,104. The 2017 figure of 309,142 was only marginally lower; it was the third-highest number of births on record.

The 2017 'total fertility rate' of 1.74 was also the lowest rate on record, declining from a peak of 3.55 in 1961.

The total fertility rate gives the average number of children a woman would have during her lifetime (e.g. 1.74 children in the case of 2017), extrapolating from age-specific fertility rates.

Since 1976, Australia's total fertility rate has been below replacement level. Replacement level is the level at which a population is replaced from one generation to the next without migration.

Number of births and total fertility rate, 1920–2017

Figure 1: Number of births and total fertility rate, 1920–2017

Note: Total fertility rate is the sum of age-specific fertility rates (live births at each age of mother per female population of that age). It represents the number of children a female would have during her lifetime if she experienced current age-specific fertility rates at each age of her reproductive life.
Source: ABS (various years), Births, Australia (Cat. No. 3301.0)

Age-specific fertility rate

The age-specific fertility rates look at women’s fertility rates in different age groups.

  • From the 1950s to mid 1970s, the fertility rates of women aged 20–24 and 25–29 were markedly higher than that of all other groups. Since then, the fertility rates for women in their 20s have been steadily declining.
  • The fertility rates of those aged in their 30s have mostly increased since the early 1980s. Since 2000, the fertility rate of women in their early 30s has been higher than all other groups.
Age specific fertility rates, selected years (births per 1,000 women)
Year 15–19 20–24 25–29 30–34 35–39 40–44
1921 26.6 135.9 169.0 142.5 101.9 43.6
1955 41.8 205.4 199.6 122.0 64.4 20.4
1985 22.8 95.8 146.0 89.0 26.9 4.5
2012 16.1 53.3 103.1 126.9 71.6 15.2
2017 10.2 42.9 89.5 119.0 71.5 15.4

Source: ABS (2008), Australian historical statistics (Cat. No. 3105.0.65.001); ABS (various years), Births, Australia, 2012 (Cat. No. 3301.0)

Trends in age-specific fertility rates, 1921–2017

Age-specific fertility rates, 1921–2017

 

Source: ABS (2008), Australian historical statistics (Cat. No. 3105.0.65.001); ABS (various years), Births, Australia, 2012 (Cat. No. 3301.0)

Age of new mothers

Looking at trends in the age of new mothers:

  • In 1991, women most commonly had their first child in their 20s.
  • Nowadays, the late 20s and early 30s are the most common age for becoming a new mother.
  • The percentage of women having their first child over the age of 30 has risen from 23% in 1991 to 43% in 2011 and 48% in 2016.

Age of new mothers, 1991, 2001, 2011 and 2016

Sources: Lancaster, P., Huang, J., & Pedisich, E. (1994). Australia’s mothers and babies 1991 (Perinatal statistics series no.1). Canberra: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare; Laws, P. J., & Sullivan, E. A. (2004). Australia’s mothers and babies 2001 (Perinatal statistics series no. 13). Canberra: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare; Li, Z., Zeki, R., Hilder, L., & Sullivan, E. A. (2013). Australia’s mothers and babies 2011 (Perinatal statistics series no. 28). Canberra: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare; Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2018). Data tables for Australia's mothers and babies 2016—in brief (Table 2.9).

 

 

Births outside marriage

For the first half of the 20th century, around 4–6% of all births occurred outside marriage, rising to 8% in the late 1960s.

Since the 1970s, there has been a steady increase in these births:

  • In 1971 only 7.4% of births were ex-nuptial, compared to 34.8% in 2017.
  • The rate of births outside marriage has stayed relatively steady since 2008, sitting at just over a third of all births.

Ex-nuptial births, 1920–2017

Sources: ABS (various years)Births Australia (Cat. No. 3301.0); Commonwealth Bureau of Census and Statistics (1964, 1973) Demography (Bulletin No. 63 & 86)

Infographic: In 2017, the total fertility rate in Australia was 1.74. This is the lowest national fertility rate on record.

AIFS podcasts

Leading researchers discuss significant issues affecting Australian families.

Explore our featured podcasts

AIFS news

Get the latest news about our publications, research and upcoming events.

Subscribe