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Births and Deaths: Year ended December 2011
Embargoed until 10:45am  –  17 February 2012

Live births down in the December 2011 year

There were 61,400 live births registered in New Zealand in the December 2011 year, down 2,490 from the December 2010 year. This is the lowest number of births since 2006 when 59,190 births were registered.

Annual fluctuations in births, in part, reflect changes in the size and age of the population, the age at which women have children, and the number of children they have. In turn, the number of births influences the future size and age of the population. 

The highest number of births ever recorded in any December year was 65,390, in 1961. At that time, New Zealand's population was just 2.5 million, compared with 4.4 million in 2011. Between 1961 and 2011 nearly 3 million (2,963,970) live births have been registered in New Zealand.

Fewer births in Canterbury

Fewer births were registered in the Canterbury region in the December 2011 year – down 610 compared with the December 2010 year. The next biggest decreases occurred in the Auckland (down 560), Waikato (down 410), and Wellington (down 240) regions. Together, these four regions accounted for just over two-thirds of all live births registered in 2011, which is consistent with their share of New Zealand's population.

Fertility rates for regions are produced for the census years 1996, 2001, and 2006. You can find these rates on the Births page on the Statistics New Zealand website.

Fewer babies for all age groups

Compared with the December 2010 year, there were fewer babies born to women in all age groups in 2011. The largest decreases were to women aged:

  • under 20 years (down 540)
  • 30–34 years (down 510)
  • 25–29 years (down 490)
  • 35–39 years (down 460)
  • 20–24 years (down 410).

Age-specific fertility rates measure the number of live births 1,000 women in a particular age-group have in a given period (usually a year).

Women aged 30–34 years had the highest fertility rate (122 births per 1,000 women aged 30–34 years) in 2011. The 2011 rate suggests that for every 1,000 women aged 30–34 years, there were nearly 5 fewer births than in 2010. The rate for women aged 25–29 years (104 per 1,000) also dropped by nearly 5 births per 1,000.

Compared with the high fertility seen in the early 1960s, women in all age groups now have fewer babies. In 1962, women aged 20–24 years had the highest fertility rate (265 per 1,000), followed by those aged 25–29 years (259 per 1,000), and 30–34 years (152 per 1,000).

 Graph, Age-specific fertility rates, 1962 to 2011.

Total fertility rate lower

The total fertility rate summarises the age-specific fertility rates into a single number indicator of fertility. It indicates, on average, the number of babies a woman would have in her lifetime if the age-specific fertility rates in a given period stayed the same throughout her life.

The total fertility rate for the December 2011 year was 2.06 births per woman – down from 2.15 births in 2010. Annual fluctuations in the total fertility rate do not necessarily indicate changes in family size, but rather changes in the timing of births.

New Zealand's total fertility rate has been relatively stable over the last three decades, averaging 2.02 births per woman. During this period, the total fertility rate varied from 1.89 births per woman (in 1998 and 2002) to 2.18 (in 1990 and 2008). In contrast, fertility rates increased dramatically from the mid-1940s, peaking at 4.31 births per woman in 1961. New Zealand then experienced decreasing fertility over the following two decades.

 Graph, Total fertility rate, 1921 to 2011.   

Deaths exceed 30,000 in the December 2011 year

The number of deaths registered during the December 2011 year was 30,080, up 6 percent from 28,440 in 2010. This is the first time the number of deaths has exceeded 30,000.

The increase in deaths is not unexpected. The number of deaths is gradually increasing due to population growth in the older age groups, partly offset by longer life expectancy. Statistics NZ's mid-range population projections (series 5) indicate that the number of deaths will continue to increase, and are expected to surpass 40,000 in 2029 and 50,000 in 2042. 

Much of the increase in the number of deaths between 2010 and 2011 was due to population growth in the older age groups. However, a slight increase in the standardised death rate suggests that when deaths numbers are adjusted for changes in the size, age, and sex of the population, a greater proportion of people died in 2011 compared with 2010. The standardised death rate increased from 3.76 in 2010 to 3.82 in 2011. Age-specific death rates suggest increased death rates among older women contributed most to the increase.

More deaths in all regions

Regional figures are based on the usual residence of the deceased, not the place of death. Statistics NZ does not compile statistics on place of death.

Compared with the December 2010 year, there were more deaths in all regions except Gisborne in 2011. The largest increases occurred in the:

  • Auckland region (up 470 to 7,690)
  • Wellington region (up 210 to 3,120)
  • Canterbury region (up 200 to 4,470).

Part of the increase in the number of deaths in Canterbury can be directly attributed to the earthquake on 22 February 2011. The figures for Canterbury may not reflect the ongoing impact of the earthquake as they do not include all the deaths of people who moved out of the region after the quake.

Death registrations in the West Coast region numbered 290 in 2011, up from 250 in 2010. The 2011 figure includes the victims of the Pike River mining disaster. These deaths were registered following an inquest on 27 January 2011 when the Chief Coroner Judge Neil MacLean ruled that the deaths of all 29 men occurred on 19 November 2010. Statistics NZ's deaths data are based on the date of registration not the date of death. 

Infant mortality rate down to 4.7 per 1,000 live births

During the December 2011 year, the number of infant deaths (under one year of age) registered in New Zealand was 290. In 2011, the infant mortality rate (infant deaths per 1,000 live births) was 4.7 per 1,000, down from 5.3 in 2001.

The infant mortality rate has dropped over the last 40 years.  The decline in the infant mortality rate has been smaller in the last decade than in previous decades. The rate declined from 22.8 (in 1961), to 16.5 (in 1971), to 11.7 (in 1981), and to 8.2 (in 1991). 

 Graph, Infant mortality rate, 1952 to 2011.

 For more detailed data, see the Excel tables in the 'Downloads' box.

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