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Births Buoyant In NZ

Births Buoyant

There were 58,070 live births registered in New Zealand in the December 2004 year, Statistics New Zealand reported today. This is 3.5 percent higher than in the December 2003 year (56,130) and is the highest number of live births registered since the December 1993 year (58,780).

Annual birth rates for the December 2004 year suggest that New Zealand women average 2.01 births per woman. This is below the level required for a population to replace itself without migration (2.1 births per woman). However, New Zealand's fertility rate is higher than that for France, (1.9 births per woman), Australia (1.8), Sweden, England and Wales, and the Netherlands (all 1.7 births per woman). Among the regions, Gisborne had the highest total fertility rate (2.64 births per woman).

Seven other regions, Northland (2.51 births per woman), Bay of Plenty (2.39), Hawke’s Bay (2.38), Southland (2.18), Taranaki (2.15), Waikato (2.13) and the West Coast (2.11), had total fertility rates at or above the replacement level. Otago had the lowest total fertility rate (1.61 births per woman), below Canterbury (1.72) and Wellington (1.75).

The trend towards delayed motherhood is continuing. On average, New Zealand women now have children five years later than their counterparts in the early 1970s. The median age (half are younger, and half older, than this age) of New Zealand women giving birth is now 30.3 years, compared with 28.5 years in 1994, and 24.9 years in 1974.

In the December 2004 year, women aged 30–34 years had the highest fertility rate (120 births per 1,000 women), followed by those aged 25–29 years (110 per 1,000). This is a significant departure from the early 1970s when early marriage and early childbearing were the norm. At that time, the 20- to 24-year age group was the most common for childbearing, with a fertility rate of about 200 births per 1,000 women. This compares with only 71 per 1,000 in the December 2004 year. Similarly, the current fertility rate for women aged under 20 years (28 per 1,000) is less than half the rate in 1974 (61 per 1,000).

Deaths registered in the December 2004 year totalled 28,420, compared with 28,010 in the December 2003 year. The New Zealand abridged life table for 2001–2003 indicates that a newborn girl can expect to live, on average, 81.2 years, and a newborn boy 76.7 years. These represent gains of 1.5 years for females and 2.3 years for males since 1995–1997.

The infant (under one year of age) mortality rate has dropped over the last decade, from 7.0 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1994 to 5.6 per 1,000 in the December 2004 year.

The natural increase of population (excess of births over deaths) was 29,650 in the December 2004 year, up 1,530 (5.4 percent) on the year ended December 2003. Natural increase accounted for 66 percent of the population growth during the December 2004 year, and net migration the remaining 34 percent.

Ian Ewing

Acting Government Statistician

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