Gympie’s birthrate is in decline.
Gympie’s birthrate is in decline.

Gympie no longer having ‘one for the country’

EX-TREASURER Peter Costello’s 2002 call for parents to have two children “plus one for your country” is on the way out in Gympie.

But the slack is being taken up at the other end of the life cycle.

Between 2008-2017, ABS data reveals the region’s birthrate dropped from a peak of 14 births per 1000 people to 10.2.

Inversely the death rate per 1000 people is up from 6.5 to 8.7.

This change has not dented the region’s growth though, with forecasts predicting 60,000 people will call the region home in 2041, 10,000 more than did in 2016.

Gympie cemetery. Abbie Grant-Taylor
Gympie cemetery. Abbie Grant-Taylor

Demographics Group executive Simon Kuestenmacher said the shift was a common story for regional towns.

And solving it is the political “Holy Grail”.

“Gympie starts off with many young people,” Mr Kuestenmacher said.

“There are strong family groups with younger kids.”

This youth population “plummets” when they turn 18 and head off to the cities for university and work; they do not return until their mid-40s, often with a family already started.

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A focus on education and careers among women was also driving the birthrate’s decline.

Mr Kuestenmacher said the more educated a society gets, the fewer children they have, and since the 1970s the proportion of population with bachelors degrees has soared from about 5 per cent to 40 per cent.

“Lots of these are women,” he said, with the plan now often ordered as university, career and then family later.

The average age when the first child arrives is now about 32, Mr Kuestenmacher said, which means most families are now having a maximum of two.

Gympie.
Gympie.

“A family of four kids you can’t even compute,” he said.

And this contributes to the change at the other end of the life cycle.

“You have an ageing population … it just means more deaths per 1000 people,” Mr Kuestenmacher said.

“It’s just that simple.”

So what is needed to stop the 18-40 age exodus?

“Every city other than Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane wants more population growth.”

For cities like Gympie, he said there needed to be a “bold, loud and optimistic” message about the region being family friendly and “a good town to spend your 30s and 40s in”.

“You need to spell out quite directly what the benefits of the town are,” he said.

Of course one fact also remained that was still a basic truth, too.

“Jobs always come first,” he said. “If there are no jobs available, nobody will return.”

Gympie Times


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