Jackson, N. & Casey, A. (2009). Procreate and cherish: A note on Australia’s abrupt shift to Pro-Natalism. New Zealand Population Review, 35, 129-148.
Permanent Research Commons link: https://hdl.handle.net/10289/5107
After a long history of arguing that Australian governments do not intervene in the bedrooms of the nation, in 2004 the Howard Government did exactly that. Under the enthusiastic choreographing of then Treasurer Peter Costello, it implemented an explicit and indirect fertility policy in the form of a maternity payment, commonly known as the ‘Baby Bonus’. Rising fertility in Australia since that time has been widely claimed as evidence of the policy’s success. Hailed as a mini ‘baby boom’, Costello was moved to describe the policy as a shift from ‘population or perish’ to ‘procreate and cherish’. Despite arguing against it while in Opposition, the policy has been continued with only a few changes by the incumbent Rudd Government, seemingly on the grounds that it may indeed be responsible for the recent ‘nudging up’ of birth rates. This paper traces the policy shift and concludes with a brief analysis of Australian trends across the period of the Baby Bonus (2004-2008), showing that one quarter of the increase in numbers is due to cohort size, but noting that fertility has also risen in many developed countries across the same period and thus trends in Australia may just be part of a broader trend – and/or in part an artifact of the index used to measure fertility. It also draws attention to the collateral effect of an increased dependency ratio, with the mini ‘boom’ reaching school age at the very moment the post war baby boomers reach retirement age – as forewarned by Costello in 2002 when initially rejecting the idea of a Baby Bonus.
Population Association of New Zealand
This article has been published in the journal: New Zealand Population Review. © 2009 Population Association of New Zealand. Used with permission.
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