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Births and Deaths: Year ended December 2014
Embargoed until 10:45am  –  18 February 2015

Live births down in 2014

There were 57,242 live births registered in New Zealand in 2014, down 1,475 from 2013. This is the lowest number of births since 2003, when 56,134 births were registered.

In part, annual fluctuations in births 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 4.5 million in 2014.

The natural increase (live births minus deaths) for 2014 was 26,179, the lowest it has been since 2002 (25,956).

Women aged 30–34 years have the highest fertility rate

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).

In 2014, women aged 30–34 years had the highest fertility rate (119 births per 1,000 women). Women aged 25–29 years had the next highest rate (102 births per 1,000). Women aged 35–39 had a higher fertility rate than women aged 20–24 for the second consecutive year (67 per 1,000 and 62 per 1,000, respectively).

Compared with the high fertility seen in the early 1960s, women in all age groups now have fewer babies.

In 1962, women in their twenties had the highest fertility rates – 265 births per 1,000 for women aged 20–24 years and 259 per 1,000 for those aged 25–29 years. This was significantly higher than women in their thirties – 152 per 1,000 for women aged 30–34 and 75 per 1,000 for women aged 35–39.

Graph, Age-specific fertility rates, 1962–2014.

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 2014 was 1.92 births per woman – down from 2.01 births in 2013. 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 2.03 births per woman. During this period, the total fertility rate varied from 1.89 births per woman (in 1998 and 2002) to 2.19 (in 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 and a half decades.

Graph, Total fertility rate, 1962–2014.  

Northland has the highest total fertility rate

Northland had the highest total fertility rate (2.55 births per woman) in 2013. Hawke's Bay and Gisborne had the next highest rates (2.46 and 2.40, respectively). Otago (1.67 births per woman) had the lowest total fertility rate. Regional variations in fertility tend to reflect the characteristics of the population in the area. For example, low fertility in Otago reflects the high number of young women studying in Dunedin. These young women tend to delay childbirth until they have completed their studies, by which time many will have moved elsewhere.

Women in regions with high fertility tend to have their babies younger. In Northland, the median age (half are younger and half are older than this age) of women giving birth in 2013 was 28 years, compared with 30 years for all of New Zealand. Women giving birth in Hawke's Bay and Gisborne had median ages of 29 and 28 years, respectively. Women giving birth in Otago in 2013 had a median age of 31 years.

Fertility rates for regions are only produced for the census years 1996, 2001, 2006, and 2013. They are calculated using live births over a three-year period centred on the census year.

The Auckland region had the highest number of births in the December 2014 year (21,429), accounting for 37 percent of all live births registered in New Zealand. This was followed by the Canterbury (6,575), Wellington (5,890), and Waikato (5,688) regions. Together, these four regions accounted for just over two-thirds of all live births registered in the December 2014 year. This is consistent with their share of New Zealand’s population. 

Māori women under 25 years have twice as many babies

The total fertility rate for the Māori ethnic group in the December 2014 year was 2.34 births per woman, well above replacement level (2.1 births per woman). In the December 2014 year, the fertility rates for Māori mothers under 25 years of age were more than double the fertility rates for the total populations in the same age groups. However, the fertility rate for the total population exceeded the rate for the Māori population in the 30–34 and 35–39-year age groups. Māori women aged 25–29 years had the highest fertility rate (127 per 1,000) followed by those aged 20–24 years (123 per 1,000).

Māori fertility rates are calculated annually, however, fertility rates for all the major ethnic groups (based on the mother’s ethnicity) are only available for the census years 2001, 2006, and 2013. They are calculated using live births over a three-year period centred on a census year and can be accessed from the births tables on the Statistics NZ website. These indicate that the fertility rate of Pacific women was 2.73 births per woman, 2.49 for Māori women, 1.92 for European women, and 1.69 for Asian women, in 2013.

Mothers and babies may belong to more than one ethnic group. For example, a baby who has both Māori and Pacific ethnicity would be recorded in both ethnic groups. As a result, the ethnic group totals do not sum to the number of births. Within the broad ethnic groups (for example European) each birth is counted only once. For instance, a child whose ethnicity is recorded as Chinese, New Zealand European, and English is counted once in the Asian ethnic group and once in the European ethnic group.

A baby’s ethnicity tends to reflect the ethnicities of both parents. In 2014, 74 percent of births registered belonged to only one ethnic group, 23 percent belonged to two ethnic groups, and 4 percent belonged to three or more ethnic groups. Just over half as many mothers (14 percent) as babies (26 percent) identified with more than one ethnic group. In the December 2014 year, 70 percent of Māori babies and 52 percent of Pacific babies belonged to two or more ethnic groups. In contrast, 65 percent of European babies and 75 percent of Asian babies belonged to only one ethnic group.

Number of deaths rises in 2014

The number of deaths registered during 2014 was 31,063, up 1,495 from 29,568 in 2013. Deaths have gradually increased over time due to population growth in the older age groups, although this is partly offset by longer life expectancy.

In 1984, deaths numbered 25,378. The number of deaths increased over the following 10 years, to 26,953 in 1994. Deaths averaged 26,512 per year during the 1980s, 27,196 during the 1990s, and 28,093 during the 2000s.

Our population projections (median projection) indicate that the number of deaths will continue to increase, passing 40,000 in 2033 and 50,000 in 2045.

Compared with 20 years ago, death rates dropped for all age groups. Overall, deaths are increasingly concentrated in the older age groups. The median age at death in 2014 was 78 years for males and 83 years for females, compared with 73 years and 79 years, respectively, in 1994. The standardised death rate (see the 'Definitions' section) increased from 3.62 in 2013 to 3.68 in 2014. This increase suggests that when death numbers are adjusted for changes in the size, age, and sex of the population, a slightly larger proportion of people died in 2014 than in 2013.

It is important to note that standardised death rates can only be used to compare mortality trends for populations that have been standardised against the same standard population. Life tables give a more accurate and detailed description of the mortality trends across populations and time. According to the provisional New Zealand abridged period life table for 2012–14, a newborn girl can be expected to live, on average, 83.3 years, and a newborn boy 79.6 years.

Regional deaths

Regional figures are based on the usual residence of the deceased, not the place of death. We do not compile statistics on place of death.

During 2014, the Auckland region had the highest number of deaths (8,033). Although the Auckland region is home to approximately one-third of New Zealand's population, it only accounted for around one-quarter of New Zealand's deaths. This is due to the region's relatively young age structure. The median age of the Auckland region's population is 35 years, compared with 38 years for the national population.

Canterbury had the next highest number of deaths in 2014 (4,422), followed by Wellington (3,187).

Infant mortality rate 5.7 deaths per 1,000 live births

During 2014, the number of infant deaths (under one year of age) registered in New Zealand was 326. The infant mortality rate (infant deaths per 1,000 live births) was 5.7 per 1,000. The infant mortality rate in 2014 was higher than preceding years (4.7, 4.2, and 4.4 in 2011, 2012, and 2013, respectively). This is because a number of infant deaths (about 50) that had occurred in 2011 and 2012 but were not registered at the time have now been registered and are included in the 2014 figures. (Rates for 2011 and 2012 are lower than they would have been if these deaths were registered at the time they occurred.) Most of these late registrations were neonatal deaths (infants under four weeks of age). Hence, the neonatal mortality rate in 2014 (4.1 neonatal deaths per 1,000 live births) was high compared with an annual average of  2.7 for 2011–13. Annual registrations for neonatal deaths may differ from the actual number of events in a given year due to the lag between the date of death and the date of registration, and also under-registration, so annual fluctuations in infant and neonatal deaths should be treated with caution. For more information about infant and neonatal rates see Information about Deaths.

Post-neonatal (infants aged four weeks and over) deaths are not thought to have been significantly affected by under-registration in recent years. However, because of the relatively small number of post-neonatal deaths, annual fluctuations should also be treated with caution. The post-neonatal rate averaged 1.6 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2012–14 and 2.0 in 2009–11.

Long-term trends indicate that while the infant mortality rate has dropped over the last decade, the decline has been slower than in previous decades. The rate declined from 24.1 (in 1954), to 15.5 (in 1974), and 7.0 (in 1994).

Graph, Infant mortality rate, 1952–2014.

Revised birth and death rates

Birth and death rates (excluding the stillbirth, and net reproduction rates and neonatal, post-neonatal, and infant mortality rates) for the June 2006 year to the June 2014 year have been revised (recalculated) using new 2013-based population estimates. Revised rates are available from Infoshare under the subject category 'population' and groups 'birth rates' and 'death rates.'

Stillbirth rates and neonatal, post-neonatal, and infant mortality rates are not revised because they are calculated using birth and death registration data not population estimates.

The net reproduction rate will be revised when complete period life tables for 2012–14 become available in May 2015.

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

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