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National Population Projections: 2004

16 December 2004

National Population Projections: 2004

Population to Reach 5 Million by 2041

New Zealand's population is projected to increase by almost one million people between 2004 and 2051, according to the 2004-base national population projections released by Statistics New Zealand. This will see the five million population mark surpassed in 2041. The population is projected to reach 5.05 million in 2051, 24 percent higher than the estimated resident population of 4.06 million at 30 June 2004.

These figures are from mid-range series 5, one of nine different projection series derived to indicate the likely future size and structure of New Zealand's population. This projection assumes that New Zealand women will average 1.85 children from 2016, down from 2.01 in 2004; life expectancy at birth will continue to improve, by about 6 years by 2051, to 83.5 years for males and 87.0 years for females; and there will be a net migration gain of 10,000 people a year. Under this demographic scenario, population growth will slow steadily in the future, mainly because of a large increase in the number of deaths as more people reach the older ages. The population is expected to grow by an average of 0.8 percent a year between 2004 and 2011.

Between 2041 and 2051, population growth is projected to average just 0.1 percent a year. The number of births is projected to decrease from 58,000 in 2004 to 50,000 in 2051, while over the same period the number of deaths will more than double, from 28,000 to 59,000. The number of deaths is projected to exceed the number of births from 2042.

Population ageing is likely to continue. In 1971, half of New Zealand's population was aged 26 years and over. By 2004, the median age had increased to 35 years, and by 2051 it is projected to reach 46 years. This reflects the combined impact of sub-replacement fertility, continued longevity gains and the ageing of the large number of people born after World War II. The projections suggest that higher migration levels are unlikely to significantly slow the ageing process.

With a net migration gain of 15,000 a year, the median age will be 45 years in 2051. With net migration of 5,000 a year, the median age will increase to 47 years in 2051. The number of children (0–14 years) is projected to decrease from 890,000 in 2004 to 820,000 in 2021. A further smaller decrease, to 790,000, will occur between 2026 and 2051. Children will make up 16 percent of the population in 2051, compared with 22 percent in 2004.

In contrast, the population aged 65 years and over is projected to double, from 490,000 in 2004 to 970,000 in 2027, and continue increasing to 1.33 million in 2051. The number of people aged 65 years and over is expected to surpass the number of children by 2022. In 2051, 26 percent of the population will be aged 65 years and over, compared with 12 percent in 2004. Within the 65 years and over age group, there will be about 320,000 people aged 85 years and over in 2051, six times the 2004 total of 54,000.

The working-age population (those aged 15–64 years) is projected to increase from 2.69 million in 2004 to 2.98 million in 2024, before declining gradually to 2.93 million in 2051.

Most of the increase will be in the older half of this age group (40–64 years) as the large number of people born after World War II move through these ages. In 1991, the population aged 15–39 years was 56 percent larger than the population aged 40–64 years. In 2011, the 40–64 age group is expected to overtake the 15–39 age group in size. In 2004, there were 5.5 people in the working-age group for every person aged 65 years and over. This ratio is expected to drop substantially, to 3.0 in 2028 and 2.2 by 2051. In the mid-1960s the ratio was 7.1 people in the working-age group for every person aged 65 years and over.

Brian Pink

Government Statistician


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