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National ethnic population projections

For detailed projections see:

This page provides summary information from the 2013-base projections of four broad and overlapping ethnic populations of New Zealand: 'European or Other (including New Zealander)', Māori, Asian, and Pacific.

For the first time, Statistics NZ has applied a stochastic (probabilistic) approach to producing national ethnic population projections. 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).

Assumptions

The median projections assume the following:

  • Fertility: total fertility rate decreases between 2014 and 2038 for:
    • 'European or Other' – from 1.91 to 1.85 births per woman
    • Māori – 2.47 to 2.20 births per woman
    • Asian – from 1.64 to 1.60 births per woman
    • Pacific – from 2.75 to 2.30 births per woman.
  • Paternity: total paternity rate decreases between 2014 and 2038 for:
    • 'European or Other' – from 0.14 to 0.13 births per man (with non-European and non-Other women)
    • Māori – from 1.02 to 0.90 births per man (with non-Māori women)
    • Asian – from 0.18 to 0.15 births per man (with non-Asian women)
    • Pacific – from 1.01 to 0.90 births per man (with non-Pacific women).
  • Mortality: life expectancy at birth increases between 2014 and 2038 for:
    • 'European or Other' – from 80.7 to 85.0 years for males, and from 84.2 to 88.3 years for females
    • Māori – from 73.4 to 81.3 years for males, and from 77.3 to 84.7 years for females
    • Asian population from 84.8 to 88.7 years for males, and from 87.2 to 91.1 years for females
    • Pacific – from 74.6 to 82.1 years for males, and from 78.8 to 85.8 years for females.
  • Migration: long-term (2017–38) annual net migration levels:
    • 'European or Other' -3,000
    • Māori -4,000
    • Asian 13,000
    • Pacific 1,000.

New inter-ethnic mobility assumptions have been developed using rates derived from the New Zealand Longitudinal Census.

  • Inter-ethnic mobility: an average net change to the population in 2014–38 due to people changing their ethnic identification for:
    • 'European or Other' – 0.04 percent a year
    • Māori – 0.43 percent a year
    • Asian – -0.08 percent a year
    • Pacific – -0.11 percent a year.

For further overview of each of the national ethnic population projections see:

Age structure

The Māori and Pacific populations in particular, and the Asian population to a lesser extent, have a younger age structure than the majority ‘European or Other’ population. Consequently, they have a greater built-in momentum for further growth.

This momentum, coupled with higher fertility for Māori and Pacific (total fertility rates in 2012–14 of 2.5 and 2.7 births per woman, respectively, compared with the New Zealand total fertility rate of 2.0), and the assumed net migration levels for Asian people (net inflow of about 360,000 migrants over the next 25-year period), means that these ethnic groups are likely to grow at a much faster pace than their ‘European or Other’ counterparts, leading to greater ethnic diversity in the population. In contrast, the projected lower 'European or Other' population growth largely reflects the combination of lower fertility rates and an older age structure.

The increasingly older age structure of the 'European or Other' group means fewer births (because fewer women will be in the childbearing ages), more deaths (because more people will be in the older ages where most deaths occur), and lower momentum for future population growth compared with the Māori and Pacific populations.

Population growth

All four ethnic populations are projected to grow between 2013 and 2038. Relatively high population growth is expected between 2013 and 2018, due to high levels of net migration from high levels of arrivals and low levels of departures. In the longer term (2018–38), growth will slow due to likely lower levels of net migration and the gradual ageing of the ethnic populations.

Natural increase is the main component of population growth for the Māori, Pacific, and ‘European or Other’ populations. Net migration plays a more important role in the projected growth of the Asian population, while inter-ethnic mobility plays a relatively minor role for all ethnic populations.

Ageing

The projections indicate with relative certainty that all four ethnic populations will gradually age over the coming decades. Increasing numbers and proportions of people in the older ages reflect the combined effect of gradually reducing fertility rates – people having fewer children – and people living longer.

However, the Māori and Pacific populations will continue to have a much younger age structure than the total New Zealand population due to their higher birth rates. Half the Māori population will be older than 28 years in 2038, compared with 24 years in 2013. Half the Pacific population will be older than 26 years in 2038, compared with 22 years in 2013.

The Asian population will also continue to have a younger age structure than the overall New Zealand population, mainly because of immigration, which is largely made up of those aged 14–29. Half the Asian population will be older than 37 years in 2038, compared with 31 years in 2013.

The 'European or Other' population will age further, with the median age rising from 41 years in 2013 to 44 years in 2038. The median age of the total New Zealand population is projected to rise from 38 years to 42 years over the same period.

In summary, the projections indicate the ethnic composition of New Zealand's population is changing with the Māori, Asian, and Pacific populations making up a growing proportion of the overall New Zealand population. However, the ethnic projections are more uncertain than projections of the total population because of the uncertain effect of changing ethnic identification and intermarriage, and the uncertainty of future fertility, mortality, and migration patterns.

Page updated 19 February 2016

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