Holding the baby

Australia’s early childhood divide

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  • Published 20220127
  • ISBN: 978-1-92221-65-8
  • Extent: 264pp
  • Paperback (234 x 153mm), eBook

I JUST TURNED thirty. The average age for an Australian woman to have her first child is 30.8, and Australian politicians – of various parties and ideologies – want me to have mine. Fertility rates are dwindling in Australia, and me having a baby would be great for ‘the economy’. Before the pandemic, Australia’s birth rate was about 1.66 births per woman, and the half-joking ‘lockdown baby boom’ some commentators predicted failed to eventuate. Apparently being stuck indoors with your significant other and nothing else to do…won’t actually convince you to get pregnant in the face of a catastrophic global pandemic. The number of babies born over twelve months in 2020–21 decreased by more than 2 per cent – the lowest number of births in over a decade and the biggest annual drop in twenty-four years.

Where I live, what I earn and my level of education: these will all influence not only my decision to have a baby but the experiences that baby will then have. These four factors – education, geography, wealth and birth rate – loop around one another in infinite iterations. People in regional and remote Australia have more children younger; they also have lower levels of educational attainment. When women get educated and become financially comfortable, they have fewer children and have them later.

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