High mortgages as new contraceptive ‘no laughing matter’, Senator Bob Day says

Article by Jennifer Duke /
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January 25, 2016 /
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High mortgages are becoming a contraceptive and young women should be raising children rather than working, an Australian senator has said.

“The joke that high mortgages are the new contraceptive is becoming no laughing matter,” South Australian senator Bob Day wrote in the introduction to the annual international Demographia housing report.

“We cannot deny ourselves the joys of grandchildren because young women have to work to pay mortgages instead of raising a family,” Senator Day, who represents Family First, said.

“We have to get back to the situation where a couple can pay off a mortgage on one income so they can start a family in their 20s, not in their late 30s or early 40s,” he said.

The average age of first-time mothers is currently 28, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

Home ownership is much harder for the next generation and they have subsequently been denied “much more than a home,” Senator Day wrote.

“Many are now choosing to defer having a family in the hope that they will be able to somehow put together the funds to buy a home later in life.”

Senator Day is a former national president of the Housing Industry Association and owns a large home building company.

Peter MacDonald, professor of demography at Australian National University, agreed it would be “better for young people if the supply situation was improved”, but said the fertility rate in Australia had been “broadly constant for the past 40 years while housing affordability has fluctuated”.

He said fertility in the past decade, from 2006 to 2015, was relatively high compared to the previous decade, 1996 to 2005.

“Thus, while it may be true for some people, it is hard to argue that housing prices have had much effect upon fertility in Australia,” he said.

But Lauren Rosewarne, senior lecturer at the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Melbourne, said there were an enormous range of reasons why women were postponing or not engaging at all in motherhood.

“These reasons include longer stays in education, a desire to establish oneself in a career and a realisation that esteem and success can come from factors outside of a family life,” Dr Rosewarne said.

“While some women may be delaying children because of a desire to purchase a property, I suspect this is no more a pressing concern than the general cost of living and the role that money has in all decisions,” she said.

“While the three-bedroom home with enough room for a hills hoist and a spaniel might be the dream for some women, it’s not the dream for all women.

“Some women only want a studio apartment that requires little care and maintenance so she can concentrate on other pursuits.

“We need a mixture of residential options at a range of price points; women’s housing needs are diverse, just as their desires for family, for career, for relationships – housing options need to reflect this.”

Demographer Glenn Capuano at .id said there was a period during the 1970s to 1990s where there was a significant change in the age for mothers having their first child.

“Since 2003-04 it hasn’t really changed for about a decade,” Mr Capuano said.

“There is a trend for people to buy houses later in life for longer, with more people also likely to live in apartments.

“While traditionally we think of people moving to the suburbs to have children, there’s an increase in families, particularly with young children, in apartments,” he said.

Senator Day has been contacted for comment.