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Number of Births Stable

Number of Births Stable

About 54,650 live births were registered in New Zealand in the March 2003 year, slightly fewer than in the March 2002 year (54,720), Statistics New Zealand reported today. Apart from a small upturn in the late 1990s, annual live births have declined since 1990. This decline 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 March 2003 year suggest that New Zealand women average 1.91 births per woman. This is about 9 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 30.2 years, compared with 28.2 years in 1993, and 24.9 years in the early 1970s.

In the March 2003 year, the 30–34-year age group, with a fertility rate of 112 births per 1,000 women, was the most common age group for childbearing and accounted for 31 percent of births, followed closely by the 25–29-year age group (107 births per 1,000 women and 25 percent of births). 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 March 2003 year totalled 27,820, 1 percent less than for the March 2002 year (28,050). 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 1990–1992.

The natural increase of population (the excess of births over deaths) was 26,830 in the March 2003 year, up 160 or 0.6 percent on 2002 (26,670). Over the same period the rate of natural increase remained constant at 6.8 per 1,000 mean population – it was 8.8 per 1,000 in 1993.

Natural increase accounted for about two-fifths of the population growth during the March 2003 year, and net migration the remaining three-fifths.

Brian Pink

Government Statistician

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