We take a look at the surprising decline in the number of births over the last 18-24 months of Australia’s most populous state, New South Wales, using data downloaded from the Bureau of Health Information. Nearly a third of all Australians live in NSW, so can we get to the bottom of why there’s been such a massive decline in births?
There were 15,868 babies born in this quarter, which is actually a 9.2% decrease as compared to the same quarter last year. But this isn’t just a recent trend. It’s been going on for quite some time as shown in the graph in the video. The graph shows us that births have remained fairly consistent over the last 12 years, but since about June 2021, there’s been a significant dip. Less babies are being born than history would indicate.
It should be noted that the NSW population has been growing over this time period, which includes both babies born and population increases due to immigration. So actually, we should expect the net number of births to go up as the population increases, but it isn’t… It’s doing the opposite.
So what’s going on? What’s happened over the last year-and-a-half or so that warrants such a dramatic decline?
Dr Liz Allen, a demographer at the Australian National University, has been on the news of late talking about this. She stated: “Climate change has been cited by young people in Australia, and other similar countries, as a major concern and barrier to having children. The fear of uncertainty owing to growing weather and climate extremes means young people are calling it quits on children citing ethical concerns.”
I don’t mean to disagree with the good doctor, but that’s a very hard thing to prove. It would require years of research and interviews with ladies of child-bearing age to find out: 1. Did they ultimately have a baby, and 2. If they didn’t have a baby, why not. As I said, you’d have to do this over many years to prove that the participants did not actually have a baby. You can’t just interview a whole bunch of 20-year-olds at university, some of which might say, “Nah, I’m not going to have a baby because of climate change”, but then 10 years later, they end up having a baby anyway. The point is, this climate change assertion is pure speculation on her part.
But the main reason I disagree with the good doctor, is that the concept of climate change has been around a lot longer than the last couple of years! I mean, Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth was released way back in 2006. Shouldn’t we have noticed a notable decline since at least then, I mean, if people were truly willing to forgo children because of concerns over the climate?
To be fair to Dr Allen, she also mentioned some other reasons, specifically: Cost of living pressures; Housing affordability; Insecure employment; and Gender inequality. The first three I can somewhat agree with, but gender inequality? I mean, wasn’t gender inequality a lot worse 50 years ago than it is now? How is that only in the last couple of years that it’s started to affect the birth rate? Actually, I would argue that women are more equal than they ever have been and THAT is putting downward pressure on birth rates. As more and more ladies enter the work force and focus on careers, they have less and less time to raise families. Perhaps the good doctor should change that last one to “Gender equality”.
Anyway, that’s Dr Allen’s full list why women are having less babies in the last year-and-a-half or so. Sometimes I think that she was just blurting out any old talking points. I mean, it guarantees her a few quotes in the local newspaper I suppose. I’m surprised she didn’t add institutional racism to the list. It makes about as much sense as some of the others. Look, I accept I might be wrong. I might be misinterpreting her words. Not to mention I don’t have a PhD in demography.
So what do you think? Do you agree with the good doctor’s assessment? Is it climate change that is driving the birth rate downwards? Or is there some other reason? And why has it only started in the last 18 to 24 months?
BUREAU OF HEALTH INFORMATION DATA PORTAL
Allégro by Emmit Fenn