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Number of Births Continues to Decline

Number of Births Continues to Decline

About 54,000 live births were registered in New Zealand in the December 2002 year, 1,800 or 3 percent fewer than in the December 2001 year (55,800), Statistics New Zealand reported today.

This is the fifth successive year that births have declined, following a slight upturn in 1997, continuing the downward trend evident since the peak of 60,200 in the December 1990 year. This drop is largely due to a decrease in the number of women in their twenties, and partly because fewer of these women are having children.

Annual birth rates for the December 2002 year suggest that New Zealand women average 1.90 births per woman. This is about 10 percent below the level (2.10 births per woman) required for the population to replace itself without migration. However, our fertility rate is at least 10 percent higher than the fertility rate for Canada, England and Wales, and Sweden.

The trend toward delayed motherhood is continuing. On average, New Zealand women are now having children five years later than their counterparts in the early 1970s. The median age (half are older than this age, and half younger) of New Zealand women giving birth is now 30.1 years, compared with 28.2 years in 1992, and 24.9 years in the early 1970s.

In the December 2002 year, the 30–34 year age group, with a fertility rate of 111 births per 1,000 women, was the most common age group for childbearing, followed closely by the 25–29 age group (106 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 20–24 years was the commonest age for childbearing.

Deaths registered in the December 2002 year totalled 28,100, up 1 percent on the December 2001 year (27,800). The abridged life table for the New Zealand population for 1999–2001 indicates that a newborn girl can expect to live on average 80.9 years, and a newborn boy 76.0 years. This represents a gain of 2.2 years for females and 3.1 years for males since 1990–92.

With fewer births and more deaths, the natural increase of population (the excess of births over deaths) contracted by 2,000, from 28,000 in the December 2001 year to 26,000 in the December 2002 year. Over the same period, the rate of natural increase fell further from 7.2 per 1,000 mean population to 6.6 per 1,000 – it was 9.1 per 1,000 in 1992. Natural increase accounted for about two-fifths of the population growth during the December 2002 year, with net migration accounting for the remaining three-fifths.

Brian Pink

Government Statistician

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