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4.6 Million New Zealanders By 2044

There will be an estimated 4.64 million New Zealanders by 2044, according to new population projections released by Statistics New Zealand.

This represents a gain of 830,000, or 22 per cent, over the 30 June 1999 figure of 3.81 million. The population is then expected to drop marginally to 4.63 million by 2051.

This projection assumes that New Zealand women will have, on average, 1.90 children (ie 10 per cent below the level required for the population to replace itself without migration), life expectancy at birth will improve by 7 years for males and 6 years for females, and there will be a net migration gain of 5,000 people a year

New Zealand's population grew from just under 1 million in 1900 to 2 million in 1952 and to 3 million in 1974. The latest projections suggest that the 4 million mark will be reached within the next 10 years

Over the past century, New Zealand's population has grown at an average rate of 1.6 per cent a year, but it is expected to grow at about one-quarter of that rate (0.4 per cent) during the next 50 years.

This is mainly because of the projected drop in births - down from 57,000 in 1999 to 48,000 - and the doubling of deaths from 27,000 to 56,000. As a result, population gain due to natural increase (the excess of births over deaths) is expected to decline steadily from 30,000 in 1999 to nil in 2039, when the number of deaths is expected to equal the number of births for the first time. After that, deaths will outnumber births by a growing margin - reaching 8,000 in 2051

The age structure of New Zealand's population will undergo significant changes as a direct result of past and likely future changes in fertility and longevity.

Overall, the population will take on an older profile. The median age (half of the population is older and half the population is younger than this age) is projected to rise from 34 years in 1999 to 38 years by 2011, and further to 45 years in 2051. By comparison, in 1901 New Zealand's median age was about 23 years.

Significantly, New Zealand (along with Australia, Canada and the United States) has lower levels of ageing than many European countries (including Sweden, Italy, the United Kingdom and Greece) and Japan, which support lower fertility levels than New Zealand

The number of children (0-14 years) is projected to decrease from 875,000 in 1999 to 737,000 in 2051, a drop of 138,000 or 16 per cent. They will make up a much smaller share of the population in 2051 (16 per cent) than in 1999 (23 per cent). Over the same period, the working-age population (15-64 years) will increase by 9 per cent, from 2.49 million to 2.71 million. However, their share of the population will decrease from 65 to 59 per cent.

The ageing of the post-war baby boomers will result in an older workforce in the future. The median age of the working-age population will increase from 37 years in 1999 to 41 years in 2051, with most of the increase occurring by 2011

During the past 50 years, the number of New Zealanders aged 65 years and over has more than doubled and will more than double again over the next half-century - from 450,000 in 1999 to 1.18 million in 2051. By then, they will make up 26 per cent of all New Zealanders (or 1 in 4), up from 12 per cent at present.

This group will itself age. There will be more than 6 times as many people aged 85 years and over in 2051 (290,000) as there were in 1999 (45,000). They will make up 25 per cent of the 65 years and over age group in 2051 compared with 1 in 10 in 1999.

Increased longevity and the baby boom impact will also mean many more centenarians (100 years and over age group) in the future - an estimated 12,000 of them in 2051 (compared with 300 in 1999)

Dianne Macaskill
Deputy Government Statistician


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