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Fewer Births and More Deaths

Births and Deaths: December 2001 quarter

Fewer Births and More Deaths

There were fewer live births and more deaths registered during the December 2001 year compared with the December 2000 year, Statistics New Zealand reported today. About 55,800 live births were registered in New Zealand in the December 2001 year, 800 or 1 percent less than the previous year (56,600).

This is the fourth successive year that births have declined, following a slight upturn in 1997, continuing the downward trend evident since the peak of 60,200 in 1990. This drop is largely due to a decrease in the number of women in prime childbearing ages (20 to 34 years) and partly because fewer of these women are having children.

Annual birth rates for the December 2001 year suggest that New Zealand women average 2.01 births per woman. This is about 4 percent below the level (2.10 births per woman) required for the population to replace itself, without migration. However, New Zealand's fertility rate is one of the highest among the OECD countries. It is at least 10 percent higher than the fertility rate for Australia, Canada, England and Wales, France and Sweden.

The trend towards delayed parenthood is continuing. In the December 2001 year, the 25 to 29 year age group, with a fertility rate of 115 births per 1,000 women, was the most common age group for childbearing, followed closely by the 30 to 34 age group (114 per 1,000). This represents a significant departure from the early 1970s, when early marriage and early childbearing were the norm and the age group 20 to 24 years was the commonest age for childbearing. On average, New Zealand women are now having children four years later than their counterparts in the early 1970s. The average age of women giving birth is 29.5 years.

The fertility rates for almost all women fell during the December 2001 year. The drop was largest for teenagers. Their fertility rate decreased by 2 percent from 28.8 births per 1,000 women in the December 2000 year to a new low of 28.1 per 1,000 in the December 2001 year.

Deaths registered in the December 2001 year totalled 27,800, up 4 percent on the December 2000 year (26,700). With fewer births and a rise in the number of deaths, the natural increase of population (the excess of births over deaths) dropped by about 1,900, from 29,900 in 2000 to 28,000 in 2001. Over the same period, the rate of natural increase fell further from 7.8 per 1,000 mean population to 7.3 per 1,000; it was 9.6 per 1,000 in 1991.

Brian Pink Government Statistician END

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