NZ needs family friendly policies to boost population

NZPA 3 November 2007
New Zealand needs family friendly policies to halt a falling birth rate, two experts say. The founding director of Waikato University’s Population Studies Centre, Professor Ian Pool, and his wife, medical demographer Dr Janet Sceats, say New Zealand’s fertility rates “may join those of Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom, which are well below replacement”. Women were increasingly postponing having children until they were established in their careers and could afford to buy into the country’s inflated housing market. The median age of mothers giving birth has risen from 23 in the late 1970s to 30 today, the Weekend Herald reports.In a study on the history of the New Zealand family, they say the country “has failed its families” by abandoning historical pro-family policies such as universal family benefits and cheap housing loans, and allowing house prices and other changes to put “undue pressure” on families. NZ’s current fertility rate, at exactly two live births for every woman, is only a fraction below the replacement level of 2.1 which allows for replacing the woman and her partner and babies who die soon after birth. But Dr Pool and Dr Sceats said this relatively high rate in rich-world terms reflected a temporarily large number of women aged 30 to 34, which is now the main childbearing age. Once this bulge passes, they predict the fertility rate will drop to around Australia’s 1.8.