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Births and Deaths: Year ended March 2012
Embargoed until 10:45am  –  16 May 2012

Live births down in the March 2012 year

There were 60,860 live births registered in New Zealand in the year ended March 2012, down 2,323 from the March 2011 year. This is the lowest number of births since 2007, when 60,471 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 March year was 65,803, in 1962. At that time, New Zealand's population was just 2.5 million, compared with 4.4 million in 2012.

Fewer births in Canterbury

Fewer births were registered in the Canterbury region in the March 2012 year – down 641 (9 percent) compared with the March 2011 year. The next biggest decreases occurred in: 

  • Auckland (down 457 or 2 percent) 
  • Waikato (down 355 or 6 percent)
  • Wellington (down 225 or 3 percent)
  • Manawatu-Wanganui (down 217 or 7 percent).

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 March 2011 year, fewer babies were born to women in all age groups in the year ended March 2012. The largest decreases were to women aged:

  • 25–29 years (down 501)
  • under 20 years (down 497)
  • 35–39 years (down 468)
  • 20–24 years (down 441)
  • 30–34 years (down 333).

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 2012. The 2012 rate suggests that for every 1,000 women aged 30–34 years, there were nearly four fewer births than in 2011. The rate for women aged 25–29 years (103 per 1,000) also dropped, by nearly five 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, 1962–2012.

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 March 2012 year was 2.04 births per woman – down from 2.12 births in 2011. 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 1.90 births per woman (in 2003) to 2.18 (in 1991 and 2009). 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, 1921–2012.  

Deaths slowly increasing

The number of deaths registered during the March 2012 year was 29,811, up 2 percent from 29,106 in 2011.

The increase in deaths is not unexpected. The number of deaths is gradually increasing due to population growth in the older age groups, although this is 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, passing 40,000 in 2029 and 50,000 in 2042. 

Much of the increase in the number of deaths between 2011 and 2012 was due to population growth in the older age groups. The standardised death rate (see Definitions section) decreased from 3.81 in 2011 to 3.75 in 2012. This slight decrease suggests that when deaths numbers are adjusted for changes in the size, age, and sex of the population, a smaller proportion of people died in 2012 than in 2011.

Regional deaths

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.

During the March 2012 year, the Auckland region had the largest increase in the number of deaths (up 261 to 7,613). Although the Auckland region is home to approximately one-third of New Zealand's population, it only accounted for 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 34 years, compared with 37 years for the national population. 

There was a decrease in the number of deaths in Canterbury, compared with the March 2011 year. Deaths in Canterbury dropped to 4,348 in 2012 compared with 4,469 in 2011. The 2011 figure for Canterbury includes fatalities that occurred as both direct and indirect results of the 22 February 2011 earthquake. However, the 2012 figure was still higher than in 2010 (4,172).

Canterbury residents accounted for 15 percent of all deaths in New Zealand but 13 percent of New Zealand's population. Canterbury's population has an older age structure than New Zealand as a whole. The median age of the Canterbury region's population is 39 years, compared with 37 years for the national population.

Infant mortality rate down to 4.6 deaths per 1,000 live births

During the March 2012 year, the number of infant deaths (under one year of age) registered in New Zealand was 277. In 2012, the infant mortality rate (infant deaths per 1,000 live births) was 4.6 per 1,000, down from 5.4 in 2002.

The infant mortality rate has dropped over the last 60 years. The decline in the infant mortality rate has been smaller in the last decade than in previous decades. By 1992 the rate had declined from 28.9 (in 1952), to 17.1 (in 1972), and to 8.5 (in 1992). 

 Graph, Infant mortality rate, 1952–2012.

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

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