CANBERRA, June 6, 2002 ( – The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) social trends report said Australian fertility rates have fallen below replacement levels since 1976.  The ABS report warns that the situation will lead to population decline and also warns that the falling birthrate coupled with increased life expectancy will lead to a rapidly ageing population.  “The ageing of the population will change the ratio of old to young, and the proportion of the population who are of working age,” said the report. “These shifts will affect many areas of social and economic activity, forcing change not only in the health and aged-care systems but in labour and market structures and skills.”  The ABS report said the average fertility rate for Australian women in 2000-05 was 1.75 babies per woman, down from 3.18 in 1950-55 and 2.09 in 1975-80.  The Age reports that the report blamed the decline in fertility on easy access to birth control and abortion, as well as changing social attitudes, including greater female participation in the workforce.  See the coverage in The Age at: