Newborn babies at a hospital in Canberra.
Newborn babies at a hospital in Canberra. (Alan Porritt/AAP IMAGES)

Former MP misleads with births figure claim

Joanna Guelas November 18, 2022

The number of births in Australia plummeted by 70 per cent in December 2021.


Misleading. The claim compares finalised data with provisional figures and doesn't take into account a lag in birth registrations.

A former MP has claimed the number of births in Australia plummeted by 70 per cent – nine months after the COVID-19 vaccine rollout.

The claim is misleading. The figures used for the claim are provisional and don’t account for delays in birth registrations.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) said provisional figures from previous years had been at a similar level before they moved to within just a couple of per cent of each other after being updated and finalised.

Finalised figures from individual states and territories for December 2021 show no significant fall.

The claim was posted by former Liberal National MP George Christensen on November 6.

He also made the same claim in an appearance on The Alex Jones Show on Infowars.

Jones was recently ordered to pay $2.18 billion after falsely claiming the Sandy Hook shootings were staged by crisis actors as part of a government plot to seize Americans’ guns.

Mr Christensen’s Facebook post reads: “What the hell is going on to produce a 70% decline in births in a single month. Coincidentally, the rollout of certain medicines – brought to market without long-term safety data behind them – began in late February with parts of the general population receiving their first does (sic) in March, nine months before this staggering reduction in the birth rate.”

The post is accompanied by an image of a table taken from the ABS. It shows 6,659 births in December 2021 compared to 22,695 from the previous December, 23,231 in December 2019 and 23,780 in 2018.

In other posts and the Infowars interview he states his percentage fall figure comes from comparing the December 2021 total to the December figure from previous years.

The claim has appeared in numerous other social media posts where it is also linked to the COVID vaccine rollout, including  here, here, here, here (15min 37sec) and here.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics building in Canberra
 The claim was posted on Facebook by former federal MP George Christensen. 

Mr Christensen’s claim followed the release of the annual Births, Australia data from the ABS on October 25.

In particular, the figures he refers to come from a dataset within the report, titled “Births, by year and month of occurrence, by state of usual residence.”

The table does feature a figure of 6,659 births for December 2021, compared to 22,695 in December 2020  – a 70.6 per cent reduction.

However, he fails to note the methodology section of the report which states: “There is usually an interval between the occurrence and registration of a birth (referred to as a registration ‘lag’) and as a result, some births occurring in one year are not registered until the following year or later…births which occur in November and December are likely to be registered in the following year.”

An ABS representative provided the same provisional figures for December 2020, 2019 and 2018 as a comparison.

At the time the respective Births, Australia reports were released, the births recorded for the month of December stood at 6483, 7655 and 6299 respectively.

Those provisional figures were 72 per cent, 67 per cent and 73 per cent down on the previous years’ finalised figures.

However, once they too had been finalised, they stood at 22,695, 23,231 and 23,780 – within 2 per cent of each other.

An ABS representative told AAP FactCheck it is expected that the December 2021 figure will follow the same trajectory.

He added: “The ABS will receive the next lot of registered births data in the first half of 2023, which will then go through our quality assurance process before being released in the Births, Australia publication around October 2023. Upon release in 2023, the occurrence table for December 2021 data will look similar to that of December 2020 and 2019.”

The ABS data comes from state and territory registries of birth. AAP FactCheck contacted the registries for any finalised data for December 2021 and beyond.

Data from Victoria reveals the numbers of births registered in December 2021 (8264) was at its highest point since at least September 2019.

It then follows a similar pattern (see graph below) as previous years before before hitting a three-year high  for the most recent month (9023 in October).

Tasmania's registry provided data for the month of December across 2019 to 2021. There were 523 births registered in December 2021, similar to the 471 and 410 births registered in December 2020 and 2019 respectively.

In the Northern Territory the number of births for December 2021 (237) was down slightly on December 2020 (283) and December 2019 (268), a representative told AAP FactCheck.

Preliminary studies (here, here and here) on the use of COVID-19 vaccines in pregnancy found they do not alter perinatal outcomes.

AAP FactCheck has previously debunked claims on pregnancies adversely affected by the COVID-19 vaccine (here, here and here).

The Verdict

The claim that the number of births in Australia dropped by 70 per cent in December 2021 - nine months after the launch of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout - is misleading. The claim compares provisional birth data with finalised figures and does not take into account a stated lag in birth registrations.

Provisional birth data from previous years is comparable with the current provisional data for December 2021.

Additionally, available finalised figures from individual states and territories show no fall in the number of births since the rollout of the COVID vaccine.

Misleading - The claim is accurate in parts but information has also been presented incorrectly, out of context or omitted.

* AAP FactCheck is an accredited member of the International Fact-Checking Network. To keep up with our latest fact checks, follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

All information, text and images included on the AAP Websites is for personal use only and may not be re-written, copied, re-sold or re-distributed, framed, linked, shared onto social media or otherwise used whether for compensation of any kind or not, unless you have the prior written permission of AAP. For more information, please refer to our standard terms and conditions.