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Sunday, November 13, 2005

Tassie missing out on boom in babies

The Mercury: Tassie missing out on boom in babies [14nov05]

TASMANIA has been left out of a baby boom sweeping Australia.

A new report shows upward growth in the proportion of babies in Australia for the first time in a decade.

Tagged the "baby bounce", the report suggests the "baby bust" may be over in nearly every state of Australia.

But Tasmania is the only state to buck the trend, with a diminishing proportion of people aged less than one during the "baby bounce" years of 2003 to 2004.

The negative trend in Tasmania has led to a call for the state to ensure it is attractive to young families.

Tasmania's Local Government Association president Lyn Mason said Tasmania needed to ensure it was attractive to young families -- not just retirees.

Ms Mason said Tasmania's net migration was positive between 2003 to 2004, with all the regions increasing by about 4 per cent.

But she said it appeared the people migrating to the state were in the over-55 age bracket. While this could be positive, because they were often self-funded retirees, it was important Tasmania also kept up its numbers of young families.

According to the 2004-05 State of the Regions Report, released last week, Tasmania's proportion of babies was ahead of most of the nation in 1996.

The proportion of 0 to 1-year-olds decreased across most states until 2004, when a sudden lift was detected.

Report co-author Dr Ian Manning said it appeared the baby "bust" -- from 1961 onwards -- may be slowing for most of Australia.

"There is no denying the fact that over the past decade this is the first time such a distinct upward trend has appeared," Dr Manning said.

Only Tasmania and the Northern Territory experienced a decrease of 0 to 1-year-olds as a proportion of the population between 2003 and 2004.

Prepared for the Australian Local Government Association, the report shows Hobart is close to the very bottom of the fertility ladder.

Of the 64 regions investigated in the report, Hobart ranks second last for "baby bounce" at number 63.

This was because there were 59 fewer babies born in 2004 compared with 2003.

The north of the state was ranked more positively at number 27 out of 64 regions. This was due to 55 more babies being born in 2004 compared with 2003.

The North-West was ranked at number 40, with 40 more babies in 2004 than 2003.

But Tasmania's proportion of the population aged less than one has been dropping since 1996, when it was 1.43 per cent.

Dr Manning said the areas which had the strongest "baby bounce", mainly in Western Australia and Queensland, were areas that were attractive to young families because of affordable housing and a strong labour market.



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