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Births Continue to Rise

Births Continue to Rise

There were 56,130 live births registered in New Zealand in the December 2003 year, 2,110 more than in the December 2002 year (54,020) and the highest number since the December 2000 year (56,600), Statistics New Zealand reported today.

Annual birth rates for the December 2003 year suggest that New Zealand women average 1.96 births per woman. This is about 7 percent below the level required for the population to replace itself without migration (2.10 births per woman).

However, our fertility rate is at least 15 percent higher than the fertility rate for Canada, Sweden (both 1.6 births per woman), England and Wales, and Australia (both 1.7 births per woman).

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 28.3 years in 1993, and 24.9 years in the early 1970s.

In the December 2003 year, women aged 30–34 years had the highest fertility rate (114 births per 1,000 women) followed closely by those aged 25–29 years (110 births per 1,000 women). This represents a significant departure from the early 1970s when early marriage and early childbearing were the norm. At this time, the age group 20–24 years was the commonest age for childbearing, with a fertility rate of over 200 per 1,000. This compares with only 69 per 1,000 in the December 2003 year. Similarly, the current fertility rate for teenagers under 20 years (26 per 1,000) is roughly one-third of the level in 1972 (69 per 1,000).

Deaths registered in the December 2003 year totalled 28,010 compared with 28,060 in the December 2002 year, a small decrease of 0.2 percent. 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 28,120 in the December 2003 year, up 2,170 or 8.4 percent on the year ended December 2002 (25,960). Over the same period, the rate of natural increase rose from 6.6 per 1,000 to 7.0 per 1,000. Natural increase accounted for 45 percent of the population growth during the December 2003 year, and net migration the remaining 55 percent.

During the December 2003 year, Emma was the most popular baby girl's name in New Zealand, and Joshua the most popular baby boy's name. There were 380 girls named Emma (1.4 percent of all baby girls), and 490 boys named Joshua (1.7 percent of all baby boys). Other popular girls' names in 2003 included Sophie, Ella, Emily, Jessica, Hannah, Olivia, Grace, Charlotte and Georgia, while for boys, Jack, Benjamin, Samuel, Daniel, Jacob, Ethan, James, Thomas and Matthew completed the top 10.

Brian Pink

Government Statistician

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