All over the Western world, women and men are having fewer children than they want to have, partly because of the way we’ve structured our economies, partly because of ideology.
Australia’s birthrate last year was 1.63. As recently as 2018 it was 1.7. (This is a statistical measure of how many babies each woman will have over her lifetime.) Our median age is a geriatric 39.
Our fertility rate has been in decline for a long time. But 1.63 is getting dangerously close to what demographers call ultra-low fertility, below 1.5. Once ultra-low fertility gets a grip, it’s nearly impossible to pull out of. Even if the fertility rate rises, there are too few women in child-bearing years to reverse radical population decline quickly.
John Howard and Peter Costello, in the last years of their fecund partnership, raised the fertility rate to 2.01, a fantastic result.
This was partly brought about by the baby bonus, a no-strings-attached payment to each mother who had a baby. That was good policy and should never have been abandoned. But equally important was Costello advocating more children.
“One for mum, one for dad and one for the country” is a fairly clumsy slogan, but it’s memorable and sums up an important truth. More, it showed the government believed in babies, believed in the future, believed in Australia. Couples deciding whether to have a first, second or third baby thought they would get some help, and some honour. The decency and idealism of their choice was affirmed.
Naturally this was demonised as reactionary Howardesque social authoritarianism. But the fact it worked showed people wanted it. Howard and Costello had uncovered a truth now confirmed by social research: people want more children than they end up having. …
Every individual has the right to make their own decision about having children and no one should be criticised for their choice. But these choices are made in the face of coercive feminist and green ideology that depicts children as enemies of self-fulfilment and destroyers of the planet, and in an atmosphere where the entire Western project is demonised. …
A society that turns its back on babies has lost self-confidence, self-belief and a sense of purpose. Babies are life, babies are adventure, babies are the future, babies are brothers and sisters for other babies.