Has paid parental leave affected birth numbers in Cairns?

In December last year, Commonwealth Families Minister Jenny Macklin warned obstetricians not to help women delay births so they are eligible for the new Paid Parental Leave scheme, which came into effect on 1 January. Judging by new statistics from Cairns Base Hospital, it appears some obstetricians didn’t listen. The Cairns Post reports (Cairns’ birth numbers are down):

IT wasn’t just tourist numbers that were down last year, it seems the baby blues hit Cairns as well.

Cairns Base Hospital recorded 2556 births in 2010, 49 fewer than the record 2605 babies born in 2009.

It was the first time since 2002 the yearly birth rate had dropped.

But last year’s figure still marked the fourth year in a row that births have topped the 2500 mark.

The hospital’s director of obstetrics and gynaecology, Paul Howat, said he believed the dip in births was the result of worries about the Cairns economy in 2010.

“But the dip in births has been a bit of good news for the hospital because it’s given the maternity ward a bit of a respite,” he said.

CAIRNSEYE editor Joelene Bettini’s five-week-old baby boy Darcy (pictured) made the 2010 birth count after he was born nearly three weeks early.

Ms Bettini said she believed birth numbers were down because mums were waiting for the new financial year.

“It was very quiet at the hospital when I had Darcy and the nurses were saying how busy they normally were at this time of the year,” she said.

Ms Bettini’s explanation makes a lot of sense (N.B. the Cairns Post report incorrectly refers to the new financial year instead of the new calendar year). Australian economists Joshua Gans and Andrew Leigh have long warned about the impact on birth rates of the timing of new family programs such as the Baby Bonus, and no doubt their work was the inspiration for Jenny Macklin’s warning last December:

Finally, some sense on birth timing

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