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National Population Estimates: December 2008 quarter
Embargoed until 10:45am  –  13 February 2009

Estimated resident population at 31 December 2008

The estimated resident population of New Zealand was 4,291,900 at 31 December 2008. The estimated resident populations for males and females were 2,104,300 and 2,187,700, respectively. At 31 December 2008, there were around 96 males for every 100 females.

Graph, Estimated Resident Population. Graph, Annual Population Change.

Annual population change

In the December 2008 year, the estimated resident population grew by 39,300 (0.9 percent), compared with 41,200 (1.0 percent) in the previous December year. The population growth in the December 2008 year was lower than the average annual increase of 46,300 (1.1 percent) recorded during the 10-year period ended 31 December 2008, and was the lowest growth for a December year since 2000.

The population growth for the December 2008 year resulted from a natural increase (excess of births over deaths) of 35,500 and a net permanent and long-term migration gain of 3,800. The level of net permanent and long-term migration was the lowest for a December year since 2000, while natural increase was just below the 35,700 recorded in the December 2007 year.

Quarterly population change

During the December 2008 quarter, New Zealand's estimated resident population grew by 12,100 (0.3 percent). This growth resulted from a natural increase of 9,400 and a net permanent and long-term migration gain of 2,700. By comparison, in the December 2007 quarter, net migration (3,300) was higher while natural increase (9,400) was unchanged, resulting in a quarterly population growth of 12,700 (0.3 percent).

Median age

New Zealand, along with other OECD countries, has an ageing population because of low fertility and low mortality. At 31 December 2008, half of the New Zealand population was over the age of 36.4 years, compared with a median age of 33.8 years a decade earlier.

The median age for males is now 35.5 years, while for females it is 37.3 years. Over the past decade, the median age has increased 2.5 years for males and 2.8 years for females. The lower median age for males reflects their lower life expectancy of 78.0 years, compared with 82.2 years for females

(Complete period life tables 2005–07).

Graph, Median Age by Sex. Graph, Population Change by Age Group.

Changes in age composition

The age composition of New Zealand's population has changed over the past decade. Between the 1998 and 2004 December years, the number of children (aged 0–14 years) increased 14,500 (1.7 percent) to reach a high of 891,500. The number of children then fell to 888,000 at 31 December 2006, before increasing to 889,900 at 31 December 2008. The overall population increase for children for the decade ended December 2008 was 12,900 (1.5 percent). At 31 December 2008, children accounted for 20.7 percent of the New Zealand population, compared with 22.9 percent at 31 December 1998.

At 31 December 2008, the population aged 15–64 years reached 2,857,200, an increase of 26,500 (0.9 percent) compared with the December 2007 figure. In the 10 years ended December 2008, this age group increased by 349,800 (14.0 percent). However, growth rates for age groups within this broad category varied, with the population aged 45–64 years recording a larger percentage increase (32.8 percent) than the 15–29-year age group (10.4 percent) and the 30–44-year age group (0.3 percent).

During the December 2008 year, the population aged 65 years and over (65+) increased by 12,100 (2.3 percent). Between the 1998 and 2008 December years, their number increased by 100,000 (22.5 percent) to reach 544,900. The proportion of the population aged 65+ increased to 12.7 percent at 31 December 2008, up from 11.6 percent 10 years earlier.

Among age groups within the 65+ category, the population growth rate was consistently higher for males than for females between the 1998 and 2008 December years. Males and females aged 90 years and over had the largest growth rate during this decade, up 72.5 percent and 48.6 percent, respectively. This was followed by increases in the 80–89-year age group of 57.2 percent for males and 27.2 percent for females. The higher growth of males at older ages is because male longevity has increased more than female longevity.

Population trends by broad age groups, 1968–2008

The number of children (aged 0–14 years) has decreased slightly over the last four decades, from 896,000 at 31 December 1968 to 889,900 at 31 December 2008. However, during this period their number has fluctuated, with a peak of 937,300 reached in 1974, before falling to a low of 775,900 at 31 December 1988. The child population then increased to 891,500 in 2004, and has been steady at just under 890,000 since that time.

The population aged 15–64 years has increased steadily since 1968. At 31 December 2008 there were 2,857,200 people in this age group, an increase of 73.8 percent on the 1968 population (1,644,000).

Over the last four decades, the growth rate was highest in the 65+ age group. The population aged 65+ more than doubled during this period, from 232,900 to 544,900. The increasing population at older ages is partly due to continuing gains in longevity.

Graph, Population by Broad Age Group.

Population Clock

Statistics NZ's online Population Clock gives a real-time approximation of the estimated resident population of New Zealand. The Population Clock uses the latest quarterly estimated resident population, and estimates for the expected number of births, deaths and net migration during the following quarter. The settings for each component (births, deaths and net migration) are derived by converting the quarterly estimated totals into a 'per minute' figure, making allowance for the number of days per quarter. The Population Clock can be viewed on the Statistics NZ website,

Different population concepts

Users of population statistics need to be aware that there are three main population measures produced by Statistics NZ: the census night population count, the census usually resident population count and the estimated resident population. The population counts published from the census are not comparable with the estimated resident population. The estimated resident population includes adjustments for net census undercount and for New Zealand residents temporarily overseas on census night. For more information see the technical notes of this release.

Final figures

The population estimates for the December 2008 year quoted above, and contained in the appended tables, are provisional. Processing of final statistics will be completed in May 2009. In addition, population estimates after 30 June 2006 are likely to be revised following results from the next Census of Population and Dwellings.

For technical information contact:
Joel Watkins or Alan Ambury
Christchurch 03 964 8700

Next release ...

National Population Estimates: March 2009 quarter will be released on 15 May 2009.

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