Written by Vanessa Marsh, The Sunday Mail (Qld)

QUEENSLAND’s plummeting fertility rate has hit a 13-year low, leading to fears we’re headed for an underpopulation-induced economic downturn if the decline isn’t addressed.

The end of the mining boom and high unemployment rates created economic uncertainty which, combined with the scrapping of the baby bonus and a new generation of career women delaying families, has resulted in a perfect storm.

Queensland’s fertility is at 1.822, the fifth lowest in history, and well below the desired replacement rate of 2.1 which keeps the population at a steady rate and stops the workforce and taxpayer base reducing and causing the costly dilemma of an ageing population.

The total fertility rate is calculated on the number of children that would be born to a woman over her lifetime.

Demographer and social researcher Bernard Salt said women were now pursuing higher education and corporate careers more than ever before which has seen birthrates for women in their 20s drop to a record low while women starting families in their 30s has doubled on the rate four decades earlier in 1976.

“The higher the level of female participation in the workforce, the lower the fertility rate will be,” he said.

“More women in Queensland are now going to uni and they tend to get a return on their investment by remaining in the workforce longer and having fewer children.”

The Government introduced the baby bonus in 2002 after the national fertility rate dropped to a record low of 1.7 in 2001.

It helped push Queensland’s birthrate to a 33-year high in 2009 with a 2.174 fertility rate which has been declining ever since, spurred on by the end of the mining boom in 2011 and unemployment rates above the national average.

The bonus was scrapped in 2014 and fertility rates the year after dropped to 1.842.

Mr Salt said people were less likely to have children when economic conditions were uncertain.

Brisbane mum Melissa Gibbons is one of the many women who delayed having a baby until her 30s, giving birth to Bastian in February at the age of 31 after establishing her career and travelling the world.

Mrs Gibbons, an aviation civil engineer, said she and her partner Luke waited until they were financially stable before starting a family.

“We’re really glad that we took the time to get ourselves set up and glad we did a lot of travelling,” she said.

“A lot of my friends have waited until that age to have children and … it’s becoming more common.”

It’s OK to take your time

THEY say first comes love, then marriage and finally a baby. But for new mum Anita Cullum a good education, career success and financial stability came before any of that.

Mrs Cullum is part of a new generation of Queensland women who are waiting until their 30s to start a family.

Mrs Cullum, 31, who works in sales and procurement for a health care IT company, gave birth to her first baby, Arthur, in April this year.

“It was really important to me to make sure that I was established in my career and in my role before I had Arthur,” she said.

“I felt like I wanted to be at a certain point where I could take some time off and not really fall behind with regards to career progression so that was one of the main drivers for waiting a little bit longer to have him.”

The Greenslopes mum, who has two degrees, said many of her friends had delayed having children in favour of establishing a career and saving money.

“My family are immigrants so, growing up, my family worked really hard to provide us with what we need, but there wasn’t really a lot extra for luxuries,” she said.

“So for me it was really important to be financially stable before having kids.

“My circle of friends are in a similar position, they want to give their kids the best opportunity they can and part of it is being financially secure.”

Original article here.