Circumcision rate falling in New South Wales

The infant circumcision rate in New South Wales has been declining in recent years, despite contrary reports in the Sydney Morning Herald.

As the following graph shows, the rate has dropped from 17.29% in the year to 30 April 2008 to 14.62% for the year to 30 April 2014. This equates to a relative drop of 15.44%, or 2.67 percentage points.


Sources: Medicare, ABS (birth of males for 2012 used for 2013 and to May 2014)

Those behind the recent Sydney Morning Herald article have simply cherry picked the years to suit their agenda. The change during their selected period is likely due to changing demographics in Sydney in particular, rather than any change in sentiment towards unnecessary genital alteration of children.

Circumcision rates across the country have been steadily falling for many years. See the following for full statistics, together with the reasons why Australian parents are turning away from the procedure:

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3 Responses to Circumcision rate falling in New South Wales

  1. Michael Glass says:

    I have now examined the number of boys born in New South Wales from 1995 to 2012 and compared it with the number of circumcisions of baby boys under 6 months and registered with Medicare Australia for those years. The result again is a strikingly different picture from both the national figures and the figures above.

    In New South Wales, the rate was 11.975% in 1995. It rose every year to 2007. In 2001 it was 14.804% and in 2004 it was 16.687%. The figures peaked at 17.57% in 2007, fell to 17.057% in 2008, rose to 17.351% in 2009 and then fell to 16.015% in 2012. 2012 percentages were lower than 2003 to 2011 but higher than any year from 1995 to 2002.

    The fact that the national figures remained largely stable from 2001 to 2007 suggests that there must have been a downturn in the number of infant circumcisions in other states during those years that counterbalanced the rise in the figures in NSW at that time.

    Please note that these figures are for calendar years, beginning with 1995 and ending at 2012 whereas the figures above go from 2007 (the year when rates peaked) and end in April 2014. ABS Birth figures for 2013 have not yet been released. This is important in working out percentages, as the number of births in NSW does fluctuate. My sources are as follows:$File/33010_1995.pdf$File/33111_2001.pdf$File/33010_2006.pdf

    • Thanks for the extra information Michael. Seems to me to only be a minor difference between your stats and those presented here. I would suggest that the difference is most likely due to the date range, with those here ending at 31 May each year. This date was chosen to provide the most up-to-date estimates to show the recent downward trend, as a counterpoint to the SMH article which showed an increase to 2012.

      An interesting factor that I have yet to fully explore is that some NSW public hospitals offered ‘free’ infant circumcisions until 2006, which weren’t captured in the Medicare numbers. The NSW Government disallowing circumcisions in public hospitals in 2006 drove an increase in circumcisions at private clinics and therefore a rise in the Medicare figures. When this is considered the true rate may have actually dropped between 1994 and 2012.

  2. Michael Glass says:

    As a postscript, I checked Australian Demographic Statistics, September 2013. The figures gave the number of births for the first nine months of 2013 as 237.200 This is 900 more than the 236,300 born in the first nine months of 2012. At this point it looks as if the fall in the number of circumcisions in 2013 was unlikely to be caused by a fall in the number of births in 2013. The December 2013 figures are due to be released on 19 June 2014 so it will be worthwhile to check the birth numbers at that point.

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