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More women are remaining childless

Are more New Zealand women remaining childless? If so, what is the impact of this on New Zealand's future? To answer this question, we looked at census data from 1981, 1996, 2006, and 2013. These censuses included a question on ‘children ever born’.

In 2013, 16 percent of women aged 40–44 years were childless. This proportion was greater than in 2006, 1996, and 1981 – 15, 12, and 9 percent respectively.

A similar increase was found in the next age group. In 1981, the proportion of women aged 45–49 years who were childless was 9 percent. This increased to 10 percent in 1996, to 13 percent in 2006, and then to 16 percent in 2013.

This trend of increasing childlessness is also apparent in other developed countries. In Australia, in 1981, 9 percent of women aged 40–44 years had no children. In 2006, the proportion had risen to 16 percent.

Conclusion

This myth is confirmed.

The trend is expected to continue. For women born in 1975, indications are that around 1 in 4 may remain childless. As childlessness increases, the remaining women will need to have more children if  New Zealand is to achieve current levels of fertility. For example, if one in five women remain childless, the remaining women would have to average 2.6 children for New Zealand to achieve a total fertility rate of 2.1 births (the accepted replacement level fertility for a developed country).

For your information

Births and deaths – information releases 
Statistics on the number of births and deaths registered in New Zealand, and selected fertility and mortality indices.

Demographic trends: 2007 – article 
Busy making other plans: increases in childlessness in New Zealand uses 2006 Census data on children never born to examine the rise of voluntary childlessness in New Zealand.

Measuring fertility – article
This article describes a range of fertility measures and discusses the limitations of these measures.

Revised 5 September 2016, based on information previously published on 22 June 2012, and 5 June 2008.

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