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National population projections

For detailed projections see:

New Zealand's latest population projections have the estimated resident population at 30 June 2016 as a base.

The median projection (50th percentile) assumes that:

  • total fertility rate (TFR) declines gradually from 1.90 births per woman in 2016 to 1.87 in 2025, and to 1.85 in 2036 and beyond
  • period life expectancy at birth will increase to 89.1 years for males and 91.3 years for females by 2068
  • annual net migration of 60,000 in 2017 and decreases by 9,000 annually to 15,000 in 2012 and beyond.

Population growth

Given these assumptions, New Zealand's population is projected to grow from 4.7 million in 2016 to 5.8 million in 2038 and 6.5 million in 2068.

Growth is likely to slow in the long term, despite the highest population growth rate since the 1960s (2.1 percent in the year ended June 2016) and the projected growth in 2017–18. There is roughly a 1 in 4 chance that the population will be declining by the 2060s.

New Zealand's population grew by an average of 1.4 percent a year between 1948 and 2016. The growth rate slowed as fertility rates fell and the population's age structure changed. Population growth averaged 2.2 percent during the 1950s but only 0.6 percent during the 1980s. Growth averaged 1.2 percent in the 10 years to 2016.
 

Births

Births are likely to fluctuate from year to year but average at least 60,000 a year. From 59,000 in 2016, births are expected to be 60–70,000 in the 2020s. 

However, there is considerable uncertainty about the number of births. Future birth numbers depend on the number of women of childbearing age and their fertility rates – how many children they have and the timing of their births. By 2068, there is roughly a 1 in 4 chance that annual births could exceed 80,000, and a similar chance they could be under 50,000.

Deaths

The future number of deaths is more certain. Deaths are expected to increase steadily despite assumed lower death rates and increasing life expectancy. From 31,000 deaths in 2016, it is highly likely that they will exceed 40,000 by the mid- 2030s and exceed 50,000 by the late 2040s. Deaths will rise as more people reach the older ages where most deaths occur. 

With deaths rising faster than births, annual natural increase (births minus deaths) is likely to decrease. There is roughly a 3 in 4 chance that annual natural increase will be under 20,000 by the late 2040s, down from 28,000 in 2016. By 2068, there is roughly a 1 in 3 chance of natural decrease – more deaths than births.

Age structure

Significant changes in the age structure of the population will continue. The median age of New Zealand's population increased from 25.6 years in 1970 to 37.1 years in 2016. A median age of 40 years is likely to be reached in the early 2030s. By 2068, half the population could be older than 46 years. The gradual ageing reflects the combined effect of people having fewer children (sub-replacement fertility) and people living longer. This impact is accentuated by the large number of people born between 1950 and the early 1970s moving into the older ages.

Population aged 0–14

The number of children aged 0–14 years peaked at 940,000 in 1974, decreased steadily to 770,000 in 1989, and then rebounded to 920,000 in 2016. The number of children is likely to increase slowly, nudging 980,000 in the late 2020s and 990,000 in the early 2060s (in the median projection). Projections of the number of children are more uncertain than those for older age groups because the number of future births is uncertain.

Although the number of children may increase, it will not increase as fast as the older segment of the population. As a result, the proportion of the population under 15 years is likely to decrease. From 1 in 3 of the population during the early 1960s, and 1 in 5 of the population in 2016, it is highly likely that children will account for less than 1 in 5 of the population throughout the projection period (2017–68).

Population aged 15–64

The number of people aged 15–64 years doubled between 1963 and 2016 to 3.07 million. This group is projected to grow gradually, with the median projection indicating 3.58 million in 2043 and 3.68 million in 2068. Those aged 15–64 years would then make up 57 percent of the total population, down from 65 percent in 2016.

Population aged 65+

The number of people aged 65+ doubled between 1988 and 2016, to reach 700,000. The number is projected to double again by 2046. It is expected there is a 90 percent probability that there will be 1.32–1.42 million people aged 65+ in 2043, and 1.62–2.06 million in 2068. The largest growth occurs between 2011 and 2037 as the baby boomers move into the 65+ age group.

By 2032, it is expected that 20–22 percent of New Zealanders will be aged 65+, compared with 15 percent in 2016. By 2050, this proportion is expected to reach 21–27 percent, and reach 24–33 percent by 2068.

Page updated 8 March 2017

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