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National Population Estimates: At 30 June 2016
Embargoed until 10:45am  –  12 August 2016
Commentary

This information release contains provisional estimates of the resident population of New Zealand at 30 June 2016. These national population estimates give the best available measure of the size and age-sex structure of the population usually living in New Zealand.

Population growth is highest ever

In the June 2016 year, the estimated resident population recorded the largest ever annual growth of 97,300 (2.1 percent) to reach 4,693,000. This follows an increase of 86,000 (1.9 percent) for the June 2015 year. To put this in context, in the previous 20 years (1995–2014), New Zealand's population grew by an average of 44,500, or 1.1 percent, a year.

The last time New Zealand experienced population growth over 2 percent was in 1974, and before that, at the peak of the baby boom in the 1950s and early 1960s.

Population growth in the year to June 2016 was due to a net international migration gain of 69,100, and a natural increase (more births than deaths) of 28,200. Compared with the previous June year, net international migration increased by 10,800, while natural increase grew by 500. The international migration gain for the year ended June 2016 was the highest ever recorded.

Graph, Components of annual population change, 2006–2016.

Growth rate changes over time

While the size of the population change in the year ended June 2016 is unprecedented, the rate of growth in 2016 has been exceeded on several occasions in recent history. The tendency of the growth rate to oscillate is in part due to the volatility of international migration patterns. In the long term however, the rate of population growth is projected to decrease.

Graph, New Zealand population growth rate, 1946–2016.

Median age moves down slightly

At 30 June 2016, half of New Zealand's population was over 37.1 years. This is slightly lower than the median age of 37.3 years at 30 June 2015 because of the impact of migration. People aged under 35 accounted for nearly 80 percent of net migration, and those aged 18–29 accounted for almost half. During the June 2016 year the male median age reduced from 36.0 to 35.8 years, and the female median age reduced from 38.6 to 38.4 years.

The lower median age for males than for females partly reflects their lower life expectancy. Based on death rates in 2013–15, males can expect to live 79.7 years, compared with 83.3 years for females.

See New Zealand abridged life tables, 2013–15

New Zealand's population has been gradually ageing, due to sustained low fertility and increasing life expectancy. Since 1995, the median age has risen 5.1 years for females and 3.9 years for males. However, since 2013 the median age has been relatively stable for females, and decreased 0.6 years for males. In the long term, it is expected that the median age will continue to trend upward as migrants, and the general population, age.

Graph, Median age by sex, 1996–2016.

Age structure changes in year ended 30 June 2016

While all broad age groups grew in size in the last year, their shifting proportions have affected the structure of the total population.

  • Children (aged 0–14 years) were 19.6 percent (921,500) of the population at 30 June 2016, down from 19.9 percent in 2015.
  • The younger working-age population (aged 15–39 years) was 33.7 percent (1,583,400) of the population, up from 33.3 percent in 2015. Between 2015 and 2016, the population aged 15–39 years increased 3.6 percent (54,900), mainly due to migration. This meant the younger working-age population was slightly larger than the older working-age population at 30 June 2016.
  • The older working-age population (aged 40–64 years) was 31.7 percent (1,489,800) of the population, down from 32.1 percent in 2015.
  • The population aged 65+ was 14.9 percent (698,400) of the population, up from 14.7 percent in 2015.

Age structure changes in the last two decades

The age structure of New Zealand’s population has changed considerably over the last two decades:

  • Children (aged 0–14 years) were 19.6 percent (921,500) of the population at 30 June 2016, down from 23.0 percent in 1996. Between 1996 and 2016, this population increased 7.2 percent.
  • The younger working-age population (aged 15–39 years) was 33.7 percent (1,583,400) of the population, down from 38.4 percent in 1996. Between 1996 and 2016, this population increased 10.4 percent.
  • The older working-age population (aged 40–64 years) was 31.7 percent (1,489,800) of the population, up from 27.0 percent in 1996. Between 1996 and 2016, this population increased 47.7 percent.
  • The population aged 65 years and over was 14.9 percent (698,400) of the population, up from 11.5 percent in 1996. Between 1996 and 2016, this population increased 62.4 percent.

Graph, Population by broad age group, 1996–2016.Graph, Population share by broad age group, 1996–2016.

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

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