Australia’s Millennials Are Choosing Beaches and Avocados Over Babies

(Bloomberg) -- Australia's nuclear family could become a minority.

The nation's statistics bureau predicts that childless couples will become the country's most common type of family by as soon as 2023.

That's not necessarily a bad thing, says Bernard Salt, the Melbourne-based KPMG partner and demographer who made global headlines by suggesting that millennials dining on avocado toast only had themselves to blame if they couldn't afford a house.

Instead of the traditional Aussie family of mum, dad, kids living in a 3-bedroom house in the suburbs, society will become more diverse and the economy flourish, says Salt. That means the fabled favorite breakfast of urban millennials could be in hot demand well into the next decade as young Aussies spend their cash on travel and restaurants instead of having babies.

``With more singles and couples, you’ve actually got higher workforce participation, which would then probably make us a richer society: more household wealth, more household income which is then not shared with as many children,'' said Salt. ``The household wealth that is generated can then be spent on what Australians would say is a better quality of life  -- education, travel, restaurants, housing for example.''

Australia’s Millennials Are Choosing Beaches and Avocados Over Babies


The Australian Bureau of Statistics last week chose International Families Day to warn the nation that its typical family unit would become a minority, citing an ageing population and couples delaying kids or choosing not to have them at all. Further out, the government agency predicts there will be over one million more childless "couple families'' than those with kids by 2036. 

While such trends may raise long-term fears of a shrinking population and slower economic growth, Salt doesn't think that will happen in Australia. He's confident that the nation's strong level of immigration and capacity for growth will ensure ``a growing and developed nation for another 30 years and probably beyond.''

The Reserve Bank of Australia will be hoping he's right. One of its current fears is that record household debt levels -- currently at 189 percent of gross domestic product -- amid soaring Sydney and Melbourne house prices will see consumer spending plunge once interest rates eventually rise. Millennials forgoing kids and mortgages may keep that consumption ticking along.

Of course, it won't be all brunches and holidays. Older childless couples face increased isolation and, with fewer kids around, society may miss the youthful rebellion that brought us the hippie and punk movements of the 20th century, said Salt.

``The rebellion of the millennial generation is not something that’s coming out of teenage years, it’s a rebellion coming out of the 20-something years'' amid rising frustration about being locked out of the property market, said Salt. ``It's issues around housing affordability and smashed avocado and so forth.''

To contact the authors of this story: Chris Bourke in Sydney at cbourke4@bloomberg.net, Kimberley Painter in Sydney at kpainter1@bloomberg.net.