The Matters of Life and Death

It seems that more Australians are entering the world than ever before, and we’re taking longer to exit.

A recent article from demographer Bernard Salt showed that last year there were 309,582 live births in Australia, up 2.6 per cent on the previous year and up 23 per cent on the 2002 figure, and there were 8,394 more boy babies than girl babies. In fact, there are always more boys born than girls, due in most part to a higher mortality rate for males (another theory on the male oversupply at birth is to advance the species: a greater number of males gives females a choice of partners at reproduction – more alpha males and less beta males reproducing).

We’re also having children later – the median age for an Australian mother’s first child is 30.7, while for fathers it is 33. Ten years ago this was six months younger and, if this trend continues, by 2100 the average Australian woman will have her first baby at 36.

What is very interesting, however, is the time of year we are having children. Last year the most popular month was March (with an average of 832 births per day); ten years ago it was October. This means parents may be planning for their child to be born in the first half of the year for schooling reasons, as there have been several studies showing the natural benefits children receive from being born earlier in the year. This marked shift towards June conceptions shows that we are now planning earlier than ever for our children’s future. The fertility rate has increased from 1.771 births per woman in 2002 to 1.933 per woman today, which shows why births are currently outnumbering deaths two to one.

So what about how we exit the world? Again, this is a changing and intriguing story.

The total number of deaths in Australia during calendar 2012 was 147,098, up just 0.1 per cent on the previous year, but up 10 per cent on the 2002 figure. Men most commonly die between the ages of 80 and 84; women are most likely to die between 85 and 89. Life expectancy at birth is 79.9 for males and 84.3 for females – a six month increase on their respective life expectancies in 2002. However, for anyone alive today at the age of 65, the rest-of-life expectation is 19 years for men and 22 years for women. This means that you probably need superannuation to last no fewer than 20 years from the age of retirement!

Most Australians die in July, next was August, while the fewest was January. Last year the average daily death rate in July (473) was 27 per cent higher than the average daily death rate in January (371). Deaths trend upwards in winter.

So, overall, we are dying later and we are having children later. Interestingly, while we’ve all been so focused on our ageing population, we haven’t seen any significant increase in the number of deaths. From this analysis it is clear that it isn’t all about the ageing of the population, at least not in the short to medium term, as compared with 2002, Australia now produces an extra 59,000 babies annually and an extra 13,000 deaths annually.

At some point in the future the death rate will accelerate faster than the birth rate, but in the meantime as more Australians are entering the world than ever before, and we’re taking longer to exit, there will be a sustained increase in demand for residential property.

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