Australian birth rate set to fall amid coronavirus recession: report

Medical workers treat a COVID-19 patient at the coronavirus unit in Mayanei Hayeshua Medical Center, Bnei Brak, April 13, 2020. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)
(Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Australia is facing a newborn deficit that could exacerbate the economic effects of the coronavirus crisis, a study has found.

The report, published by the government’s Center for Population on Tuesday, found that Australia could welcome 56,000 fewer babies per year as a result of the coronavirus-induced recession.

It would be a significant blow to the Australian economy with population growth already expected to fall to the lowest level since World War I because of a collapse in overseas migration amid the pandemic.

The federal budget for 2019-20 assumed a fertility rate of 1.9 babies per woman — up from 1.78 in 2018.

The report, which was compiled by Australian National University (ANU) demographer Peter McDonald, contradicted the budget, warning that the fertility rate would drop to 1.59 next year and rise to 1.69 by 2024, before falling to 1.62 by 2030.

Sarah Hunter, chief economist from BIS Oxford Economics, said that the downturn would not have an immediate impact on the budget but would have long-term implications such as reducing the size of the labor force.

“It ultimately reduces how big the economy can be,” she told Nine Entertainments newspapers.

“This is going to have a material impact over the longer term.”

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg addressed the likely baby deficit in July, telling the National Press Club that his plan was to create “a strong economy for children to be born into.”

“People should feel encouraged about the future, and the more children that we have across the country, together with our migration, we will build our population growth and that will be good for the economy,” he said at the time.

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