More than half of young Australians are putting off having children. What does that mean for future growth

More than half of young Australians are putting off having children. What does that mean for future growth
  • PublishedJune 4, 2024

Melbourne woman Sam is open to having kids but, there are some significant hurdles to overcome first.

The 29-year-old says she needs to clear her $100,000 HECS debt and then find a way to own her own home before even considering it. 

“And you know, I can’t even afford grated cheese, that’s like $12 a bag these days,” she says. 

Recent research shows more than half of 18 to 34-year-olds are delaying starting a family, blaming the current cost of living effects. 

Marketing professional Sam isn’t surprised at all by that figure. 

“It’s the farthest thing from my mind right now. Which is ironic, considering my Mum probably had me at my age,” she says. 

The data — compiled by political research organisation RedBridge Group — came from a survey of 2,000 Australians.

RedBridge director Kos Samaras says it’s clear a significant group of young people are delaying life decisions that previous generations were taking for granted.

Man standing on a suburban Melbourne street in a blue shirt
Kos Samaras says younger people are delaying life decisions for financial reasons. (Peter Healy)

Mr Samaras, who was once a senior campaign strategist for the Labor Party, says his team asked people in their early 30s if they’d support previous policies such as the “baby bonus”, which provided a one-off payment to new parents. 

He says people rolled their eyes, with responders giving clear reasons regarding the affordability of having children in today’s age. 

“It’s not just about the $3,000 or $4,000 you might get from government,” he says. 

“It is the inability to access affordable rental properties. It is an inability to access a home that is suitable for raising your family. It is the unstable work out there.”

‘It would be better if birth rates were higher’

The country’s birth rate is currently at 1.6 — below the replacement rate level of 2.1 needed to keep population growth steady.

And the government has been grappling with how to manage the dwindling population — looking at cheaper childcare and improved parental leave.

In response to questions about slowing population rates, a spokesperson for Treasurer Jim Chalmers’s office told the ABC that budget measures, announced last month, would soon ease cost of living pressures. 

However, Mr Chalmers told Nine Newspapers last month “it would be better if birth rates were higher”. 

“I think people are leaving it later. And sometimes that means you get timed out. But there are a whole range of reasons people’s preferences are changing. It’s expensive to raise kids,” he said. 

RBC Capital Markets chief economist Su Lin Ong says the slowing of the country’s birth rates, has knock-on effects from a “bigger, broader economic perspective”. The economist also says that when people delay starting a family, they’re also likely to have fewer children.

“That has all sorts of implications around what it means for aging populations to contribute to growth to the demographics when you’ve got fewer young people able to support an aging population,” she says. 

The RedBridge research also shows younger Australians are putting off other major life decisions such as receiving medical treatment and getting married, due to cost of living. 

Over half of 18 to 34-year-olds delayed medical treatment for a financial reason, and just under half had delayed getting married. Nearly 70 per cent of that same age bracket have also delayed buying a home for the same reason. 


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