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National Ethnic Population Projections: 2013(base)–2038 (update)
Embargoed until 10:45am  –  18 May 2017
Commentary

Important advice for using these projections 

National ethnic population projections indicate the future population usually living in New Zealand for eight broad and overlapping ethnic groups: 'European or Other (including New Zealander)', Māori, Asian, Pacific, Chinese, Indian, Samoan, and MELAA (Middle Eastern/Latin American/African). New Zealand’s ethnic populations are not mutually exclusive because people can and do identify with more than one ethnicity. People are included in each ethnic population they identify with.

The projections indicate probable outcomes based on different combinations of fertility, mortality, migration, and inter-ethnic mobility assumptions. Users can make their own judgement as to which projections are most suitable for their purposes.

These projections are not predictions. They should be used as an indication of the overall trend, rather than as exact forecasts. The projections are updated every 2–3 years to maintain their relevance and usefulness, by incorporating new information about demographic trends and developments in methods.

At the time of release, the median projection (50th percentile) indicates an estimated 50 percent chance the actual value will be lower, and a 50 percent chance the actual value will be higher, than this percentile. Other percentiles indicate the distribution of values (eg projection results or assumptions). For example, the 25th percentile indicates an estimated 25 percent chance the actual value will be lower, and a 75 percent chance the actual value will be higher, than this percentile. Shading in graphs indicates the chance that actual values will fall within a certain range. Different shading is used to distinguish different ranges.

The following results highlight the main trends from the projections.

See population projections tables for links to more detailed projection assumptions and results in NZ.Stat.

Population growth expected across all ethnic groups 

New Zealand’s total population is projected to grow from 4.4 million in 2013 to 5.8 million in 2038, an average annual increase of 1.1 percent. All ethnic populations are projected to grow between 2013 and 2038, with the highest rate of growth in the MELAA ethnic group, where the population is expected to triple by 2038. The 'European or Other' ethnic group is projected to have the lowest rate of increase of 0.5 percent a year between 2013 and 2038.

The broad Asian ethnic population is projected to exceed the Māori ethnic population by the early 2020s, and projected to exceed 1 million in the late 2020s. The Māori ethnic group is projected to surpass 1 million in the mid-2030s.

Graph, Annual population growth, Median projection by ethnic group 2014–38.

'European or Other' only ethnic group to decrease population share 

All ethnic groups, apart from the 'European or Other' group, will increase their share of the total New Zealand population over the projection period. From the median projection, the:

  • ‘European or Other’ population will make up 65.5 percent of the total New Zealand population in 2038, compared with 74.6 percent in 2013
  • Māori population will make up 18.4 percent, compared with 15.6 percent in 2013
  • Asian population will make up 22.0 percent, compared with 12.2 percent in 2013
    • Chinese population will make up 7.6 percent, compared with 4.4 percent in 2013
    • Indian population will make up 7.1 percent, compared with 4.0 percent in 2013
  • Pacific population will make up 10.2 percent, compared with 7.8 percent in 2013
    • Samoan population will make up 5.1 percent, compared with 3.8 percent in 2013
  • MELAA population will make up 3.0 percent, compared with 1.2 percent in 2013.

The percentages do not sum to 100 percent because people can and do identify with multiple ethnicities. People are included in each of the ethnic groups they identify with.

Projected ethnic shares for broad age groups are included in table 2 of the downloadable Excel file in the 'Downloads' box on our website.

Graph, Ethnic share of New Zealand population, median projection, 2013 to 2038.

Different drivers of ethnic growth

The different rates of population growth between ethnic groups largely reflect past and likely future differences in birth and death rates, different age structures, and different migration patterns.

The fall in the ‘European and Other’ percent share of the total population can be attributed to a drop in the rate of natural increase (births minus deaths) between the years 2023 and 2038. Deaths are projected to rise relative to births. This is due to a shift in the age structure towards an older population, with more people at older ages by 2038, resulting in slower rates of natural increase.

The Māori ethnic group's increase in population is driven by the natural rate of increase, which will consistently rise over the projection period to a high of about 16,000 people a year in 2038. Relatively small net migration outflows are assumed.

Net migration also contributes to Asian population increases in the early years of the projection period, with median Asian net migration gains assumed to exceed 20,000 people a year during 2014–20, and 15,000 a year after 2021. Chinese net migration is also high in the early years of the projection, falling to 4,000 a year in later years. Indian net migration follows a similar pattern.

For Pacific, Samoan, and MELAA populations, population growth is driven by a combination of natural increase and net migration, with all three ethnic groups projecting consistent increases in natural increase over the projected period. The natural rate of increase for these ethnic groups is less than that of the Māori population, but will still rise steadily over the projected period.

Graph, Natural increase, Median projection by ethnic group 2014–38.

Changes in age structures

Of New Zealand’s total population, the number of individuals aged 65+ will increase dramatically over the projected period, more than doubling in number between 2013 and 2038. The age group to show the smallest increase is the 0–14 age group, only rising by about 8 percent over the projected period.

All ethnic groups projected to age 

The projections indicate that the number of people over the aged 65+ will increase significantly over the projection period. The proportion of individuals in the 40–64 age group is projected to increase in 6 out of 8 ethnic groups. These trends reflect the general aging of each ethnic group.

The median projection indicates that of the number of New Zealand adults aged 65+ years in each ethnic group:

  • ‘European or Other’ 65+ adults will make up 25.9 percent of the ‘European or Other’ group in 2038, compared with 16.7 percent in 2013
  • Māori 65+ adults will make up 11.9 percent of the Māori group in 2038, compared with 5.3 percent in 2013
  • Asian 65+ adults will make up 16.0 percent of the Asian group in 2038, compared with 5.9 percent in 2013
    • Chinese 65+ adults will make up 16.7 percent of the Chinese group in 2038, compared with 8.6 percent in 2013
    • Indian 65+ adults will make up 12.3 percent of the Indian group in 2038, compared with 5.3 percent in 2013
  • Pacific 65+ adults will make up 9.2 percent of the Pacific group in 2038, compared with 4.7 percent in 2013
    • Samoan 65+ adults will make up 10.1 percent of the Samoan group in 2038, compared with 4.6 percent in 2013.
  • MELAA 65+ adults will make up 13.7 percent of the MELAA group in 2038, compared with 3.4 percent in 2013.
Graph, 'European or Other' population by age 2013 and 2038.   Graph, Maori population by age 2013 and 2038.  
 Graph, Asian population by age 2013 and 2038.  Graph, Chinese population by age 2013 and 2038.
 Graph, Indian population by age 2013 and 2038.  Graph, Pacific population by age 2013 and 2038.
 Graph, Samoan population by age 2013 and 2038.  Graph, MELAA population by age 2013 and 2038.

Median age for all ethnic groups to rise

All ethnic groups are expected to see a rise between 2013 and 2038 in their respective median ages. For the total New Zealand population, the median age is projected to rise from 37.6 in 2013 to 41.9 in 2038. From the projections, the largest increase in median age is in the Asian ethnic group, rising from 30.6 in 2013 to 40.4 in 2038. This rise reflects the ageing of the large cohort currently in their 20s.

Graph, Median age of population, Median projection of ethnic group 2013–38.

Ethnicity of the youngest age group to diversify

Of all New Zealand children (aged 0–14 years), the ‘European or Other’ share is projected to decrease, but increase for all other ethnic groups. Despite this age group decreasing in total population share (down from a 20 percent share in 2013 to 18 percent in 2038), it will be significantly more diverse in 2038 than in 2013.

These changes will result in further changes in ethnic composition. The median projection indicates that of all New Zealand children (aged 0–14 years):

  • 'European or Other' children will make up 68.2 percent in 2038, compared with 71.6 percent in 2013.
  • Māori children will make up 30.3 percent in 2038, compared with 25.6 percent in 2013
  • Asian children will make up 21.2 percent in 2038, compared with 11.9 percent in 2013
    • Chinese children will make up 8.2 percent in 2038, compared with 3.8 percent in 2013
    • Indian children will make up 7.3 in 2038, compared with 4.0 percent in 2013.
  • Pacific children will make up 17.7 percent in 2038, compared with 13.4 percent in 2013
    • Samoan children will make up 8.8 percent in 2038, compared with 6.7 percent in 2013
  • MELAA children will make up 3.9 percent in 2038, compared with 1.5 percent in 2013.
Graph, 'European or Other' population by broad age group, Median projection 2013–38.    Graph, Maori population by broad age group, Median projection 2013–38.
 Graph, Asian population by broad age group, median projection 2013–38.  Graph, Chinese population by broad age group, median projection 2013–38.
 Graph, Indian population by broad age group, Median projection 2013–38.  Graph, Pacific population by broad age group, Median projection 2013–38.
 Graph, Samoan population by broad age group, Median projection 2013–38.  Graph, MELAA population by broad age group, Median projection 2013–38.

Ethnic diversity of New Zealand to increase

The rate of population growth in the ‘European or Other’ ethnic group will be slower than all other ethnic groups over the projected period, leading to a New Zealand population more ethnically diverse in 2038 than in 2013. As all other ethnic groups grow in population and increase their share of New Zealand’s population, the ‘European or Other’ ethnic group’s share of New Zealand’s population will decrease, due to a lower birth rate than other ethnic groups, an older population, and low net migration.

The number of births for the ‘European or Other’ ethnic group is projected to rise by about 2.8 percent in 2038 when compared with 2014. All other ethnic groups are projected to have at least 20 percent more births in 2038 than in 2014. As a proportion of each ethnic group’s population, the ‘European or Other’ ethnic group has the lowest proportion of individuals in their population around the median childbearing age of 31.1 years, and the highest proportion of individuals around the median death age of 85.1 years.

 

 Graph, 'European or Other' births and deaths 2014–2038.  Graph, Maori births and deaths 2014–2038.
 Graph, Asian births and deaths 2014–2038.  Chinese births and deaths 2014–38.
 Graph, Indian births and deaths 2014–2038.  Graph, Pacific births and deaths 2014–38.
 Graph, Samoan births and deaths 2014–38.  Graph, MELAA births and deaths 2014–2038.

The ‘European or Other’ and Māori ethnic groups are the only two groups to show a decrease in net migration over the projected period. Net migration for the ‘European or Other’ ethnic group is high between 2014 and 2019, but begins to decline until 2022 when more ‘European or Other’ individuals are leaving New Zealand than migrating to New Zealand. This results in fewer births and fewer younger people in this ethnic group.

Migration outflows for the Māori ethnic group are expected, as the likelihood of Māori people immigrating to New Zealand is low. The Asian ethnic group has the highest net migration. Both the Chinese and Indian ethnic groups showing similar levels of migration into New Zealand.

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

More information about ethnic populations, multiple ethnicity, and birthplace

The 2013 Census asked people "Which ethnic group do you belong to? Mark the space or spaces which apply to you." The census usually resident population count of 4,242,048 included 230,649 people without an ethnic response and 4,011,399 people who identified with at least one ethnicity:

  • 3,030,051 people with a 'European' or 'Other' ethnicity
  • 598,605 with the Māori ethnicity
  • 471,708 with an Asian ethnicity
  • 295,941 with a Pacific ethnicity
  • 46,953 with a Middle Eastern/Latin American/African (MELAA) ethnicity.

'European' or 'Other'

Of the 3,030,051 people who identified with a 'European' or 'Other' ethnicity:

  • 2,969,391 identified with a 'European' ethnicity, including New Zealand European 2,727,009; English 38,913; Dutch 28,503; South African not elsewhere classified 28,656; Australian 22,470; Scottish 14,412; Irish 14,193; and German 12,810
  • 67,752 identified with an 'Other' ethnicity, including New Zealander 65,973
  • 2 percent (53,208) identified with more than one 'European or Other' ethnicity (eg Irish and New Zealander)
  • 12 percent (362,838) identified with ethnicities outside the 'European or Other' group
  • 83 percent (2,500,602) of those who stated a birthplace were born in New Zealand, and 11 percent (330,867) were born in Europe (including the United Kingdom).

Māori

Of the 598,605 people identifying with Māori ethnicity:

  • 54 percent (320,409) identified with at least one other ethnicity
  • 98 percent (579,639) of those who stated a birthplace were born in New Zealand.

Asian

Of the 471,708 people identifying with an Asian ethnicity:

  • the number identifying with Chinese ethnicities was 171,411 (including 5,715 people identifying with Taiwanese ethnicity); Indian ethnicities 155,178 (including 10,929 with Fijian-Indian); Filipino 40,350; Korean 30,171; Japanese 14,118; Sri Lankan/Sinhalese 11,274; Cambodian 8,601; Thai 8,052; Vietnamese 6,660; Malay 4,794; and Indonesian 4,137
  • 2 percent (7,563) identified with more than one Asian ethnicity (eg Chinese and Indian)
  • 9 percent (40,579) identified with ethnicities outside the Asian group
  • 23 percent (105,726) of those who stated a birthplace were born in New Zealand, and 66 percent (306,201) were born in Asia.

Chinese

People of Chinese ethnicities comprised 36 percent of people identifying with an Asian ethnicity. Of the 171,411 people who identified with a Chinese ethnicity:

  • 12 percent (20,793) identified with ethnicities outside the Chinese group
  • 27 percent (45,216) of those who stated a birthplace were born in New Zealand, 61 percent (103,488) were born in North-East Asia, and 10 percent (17,805) were born elsewhere in Asia.

Indian

People of Indian ethnicities comprised 33 percent of people identifying with an Asian ethnicity. Of the 155,178 people who identified with an Indian ethnicity:

  • 8 percent (12,381) identified with ethnicities outside the Indian group
  • 24 percent (36,012) of those who stated a birthplace were born in New Zealand, 43 percent (65,160) were born in India, and 27 percent (42,033) were born in Fiji.

Pacific

Of the 295,941 people identifying with a Pacific ethnicity:

  • the number identifying with Samoan was 144,138; Cook Island ethnicities 61,842; Tongan 60,336; Niuean 23,883; Fijian 14,445; and Tokelauan 7,176.
  • 9 percent (25,356) identified with more than one Pacific ethnicity (eg Samoan and Tongan).
  • 32 percent (95,622) identified with ethnicities outside the Pacific group.
  • 62 percent (181,791) of those who stated a birthplace were born in New Zealand, and 37 percent (108,108) were born elsewhere in Oceania (including Australia).

Samoan

People of Samoan ethnicity comprised 49 percent of people identifying with a Pacific ethnicity. Of the 144,138 people who identified with Samoan ethnicity:

  • 38 percent (54,819) identified with ethnicities outside the Samoan group
  • 63 percent (89,271) of those who stated a birthplace were born in New Zealand, and 37 percent (52,425) were born elsewhere in Oceania (including Australia).

MELAA

Of the 46,953 people identifying with a Middle Eastern/Latin American/African ethnicity:

  • the number identifying with Middle Eastern ethnicities was 20,406, with Latin American ethnicities 13,182, and with African ethnicities 13,464
  • the number identifying with African not further defined was 6,822; Latin American not further defined 5,625; Middle Eastern not further defined 4,377; Iranian/Persian 3,195; Arab 2,919; Brazilian 2,868; and Iraqi 2,583
  • 1 percent (552) identified with more than one MELAA ethnicity (eg Kurdish and Turkish)
  • 16 percent (7,494) identified with ethnicities outside the MELAA group
  • 22 percent (10,167) of those who stated a birthplace were born in New Zealand, 32 percent (14,748) were born in North Africa and the Middle East, 25 percent (11,379) were born in the Americas, and 17 percent (7,890) were born in Sub-Saharan Africa.

See 2013 Census QuickStats about culture and identity, 2013 Census totals by topic, and information about the ethnicity variable for more information from the 2013 Census.

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