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National Ethnic Population Projections: 2013(base)–2038
Embargoed until 10:45am  –  21 May 2015
Commentary

Important advice for using these projections 

National ethnic population projections indicate the future population usually living in New Zealand for four broad and overlapping ethnic groups: 'European or Other (including New Zealander)', Māori, Asian, and Pacific. New Zealand’s ethnic populations are not mutually exclusive because people can and do identify with more than one ethnicity. People are included in each ethnic population they identify with.

The projections indicate probable outcomes based on different combinations of fertility, mortality, migration, and inter-ethnic mobility assumptions. Users can make their own judgement as to which projections are most suitable for their purposes.

These projections are not predictions. They should be used as an indication of the overall trend, rather than as exact forecasts. The projections are updated every 2–3 years to maintain their relevance and usefulness, by incorporating new information about demographic trends and developments in methods.

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). For example, the 25th percentile indicates an estimated 25 percent chance the actual value will be lower, and a 75 percent chance the actual value will be higher, than this percentile. Shading in graphs indicates the chance that actual values will fall within a certain range. Different shading is used to distinguish different ranges.

The following results highlight the main trends from the projections.

See population projections tables for links to more detailed projection assumptions and results in NZ.Stat.

Population growth expected across all ethnic groups 

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 is likely to slow due to lower levels of net migration and the gradual ageing of the ethnic populations.

Graph, Annual population growth, median projection by ethnic group, 2014 to 2038.Graph, Ethnic share of New Zealand population, median projection, 2013 to 2038. 

Increasing Māori, Asian, and Pacific shares of the population 

The Māori, Asian, and Pacific populations will all increase their share of the total New Zealand population over the projection period because of their higher growth rates. From the median projection, the:

  • Māori population will make up 19.5 percent of the total New Zealand population in 2038, compared with 15.6 percent in 2013
  • Asian population will make up 20.9 percent, compared with 12.2 percent in 2013
  • Pacific population will make up 10.9 percent, compared with 7.8 percent in 2013
  • 'European or Other' population will make up 65.6 percent, compared with 74.6 percent in 2013.

In addition, about 1 percent of New Zealand's population identified with Middle Eastern, Latin American, or African ethnicities in 2013. Projections are unavailable of this small, albeit growing, ethnic group with an estimated resident population of 53,000 at 30 June 2013.

The percentages do not sum to 100 percent because people can and do identify with multiple ethnicities. People are included in each of the ethnic groups they identify with. Projected ethnic shares for broad age groups are included in table 2 of the downloadable Excel file in the 'Downloads' box on our website.

Different drivers of ethnic growth

The different rates of population growth largely reflect past and likely future differences in fertility, the effect of intermarriage, different age structures, and different migration patterns.

Māori and Pacific population growth will be mainly driven by their high rates of birth and natural increase (births minus deaths). During 2012–14, their total fertility rates were 2.5 and 2.7 births per woman, respectively. By comparison, the 'European or Other' and Asian rates were 1.9 and 1.7 births per woman, respectively. The overall New Zealand total fertility rate was 2.0 births per woman in 2012–14. (See age-specific fertility rates for the major ethnic groups.)

Ethnic intermarriage (parents with different ethnicities) also makes an important contribution to Māori and Pacific population growth. In about one-quarter of Māori births (ie where the child is identified as Māori), the mother is non-Māori and the father is Māori. Similarly, in about one-quarter of Pacific births (ie where the child is identified as Pacific), the mother is non-Pacific and the father is Pacific.

In addition, the Māori, Asian, and Pacific populations have a much younger age structure, with relatively high proportions at the child and childbearing ages, and low proportions at the older ages. These age structures provide greater built-in momentum for future growth compared with the 'European or Other' population. Half the 'European or Other' population is aged over 41 years, compared with median ages of 24, 31, and 22 years for the Māori, Asian, and Pacific populations, respectively, in 2013.

The increase in the Asian population share will be largely driven by net migration (arrivals minus departures). The median projection assumes a net inflow of about 360,000 migrants over the 25-year period. Natural increase will account for about 260,000 (two-fifths) of the projected Asian population growth.

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 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.

In summary, natural increase is projected to be the main component of population growth for the 'European or Other', Māori, and Pacific populations during 2013–38. 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.

Graph, Components of population change, median projection by ethnic group, 2013 to 2038.

Deaths increasing faster than births 

Deaths are projected to increase for all ethnic groups despite assumed lower death rates and increasing life expectancy. This increase reflects more people reaching the older ages where most deaths occur. In 2014, 90 percent of deaths in New Zealand occurred at ages 55 years and over.

More Māori, Asian and Pacific births can also be expected, although the number of 'European or Other' births is likely to remain more stable. These birth trends largely reflect trends in the number of women of childbearing age in each ethnic population.

There is much more uncertainty in the future number of births than deaths. This uncertainty is because trends in age-specific fertility rates are less certain than trends in age-specific death rates. Also, future birth numbers depend on the number of women of childbearing age – which is affected by migration and future births – as well as fertility rates.

The net difference between births and deaths – natural increase – is likely to rise for the Māori and Pacific populations. The median projection sees Māori natural increase rising from over 13,000 in 2014 to over 17,000 a year in the late 2030s. Pacific natural increase will rise from 8,000 to over 11,000 a year over the same period.

The median projection sees Asian natural increase rising from 9,000 in 2014 to 10,000–11,000 a year during the period 2016–38. 'European or Other' natural increase will average 15,000 a year during 2014–18, but will fall sharply after the mid-2020s as births decrease and deaths increase. By the late 2030s, 'European or Other' natural increase will fall to 4,000 a year. There is roughly a 1 in 3 chance that 'European or Other' deaths will exceed 'European or Other' births – natural decrease – by the late 2030s.

Graph, 'European or Other' births, 2014 to 2038.Graph, 'European or Other' deaths, 2014 to 2038.

Graph, Māori births and deaths, 2014 to 2038.Graph, Asian births and deaths, 2014 to 2038.

Graph, Pacific births and deaths, 2014 to 2038.Graph, Median age of population, median projection by ethnic group, 2013 to 2038.

All ethnic populations are 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 because of 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 due to immigration (which is concentrated in ages 14–29 years). 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.

Projections of the population aged 50 years and over have more certainty than projections of the population aged under 50 years. All those aged 50+ throughout the projection period are already alive, so only deaths and migration can affect their future number. Death rates at all ages have trended downward over a long period of time, while migration plays a relatively small role at these ages. In contrast, the fertility and migration components are more uncertain and both directly affect the population at younger ages.

Graph, 'European or Other' population, by age.Graph, Māori population, by age.

Graph, Asian population, by age.Graph, Pacific population, by age.

Note: Percentiles shown for 2038 are, left to right, 5th, 25th, 50th, 75th, and 95th.

Changes in age structures

The projections indicate gradual changes in the age structure of all four ethnic populations. Perhaps most strikingly, the number of people aged 65 years and over (65+) identifying with a 'European or Other' ethnicity is set to reach 1 million by the late 2030s – the same number as in each of the broad working-age groups – 15–39 and 40–64 years. The median projection indicates 28 percent of the 'European or Other' would be in each of those three broad age groups, with just 17 percent aged 0–14 years.

Graph, 'European or Other' population by broad age group, median projection, 2013 to 2038.Graph, 'European or Other' age distribution, median projection, 2013 to 2038.

Graph, Māori population by broad age group, median projection, 2013 to 2038.Graph, Māori age distribution, median projection, 2013 to 2038.

Smaller share in the youngest age group

The projections indicate a reduction in the proportion of the population aged 0–14 years across all four ethnic groups. However, the number of Māori, Asian, and Pacific children (aged 0–14 years) is likely to increase, in contrast to the number of 'European or Other' children. These trends reflect current and future assumed fertility rates, as well as the gradual ageing of the populations.

These changes will result in further changes in ethnic composition. The median projection indicates that of all New Zealand children (aged 0–14 years):

  • 'European or Other' children will make up 63.2 percent in 2038, compared with 71.6 percent in 2013.
  • Māori children will make up 32.6 percent in 2038, compared with 25.6 percent in 2013.
  • Asian children will make up 21.6 percent in 2038, compared with 11.9 percent in 2013.
  • Pacific children will make up 19.6 percent in 2038, compared with 13.4 percent in 2013.

The level of ethnic overlap is particularly significant among children, reflecting the incidence of multiple ethnicity. At the 2013 Census, 23 percent of children identified with more than one ethnicity (20 percent in 2006), compared with 11 percent of the population overall (10 percent in 2006). Among birth registrations in 2012–14, 31 percent of children were registered with more than one ethnicity.

Graph, Asian population by broad age group, median projection, 2013 to 2038.Graph, Asian age distribution, median projection, 2013 to 2038.

Graph, Pacific population by broad age group, median projection, 2013 to 2038.Graph, Pacific age distribution, median projection, 2013 to 2038.

Fastest growth at older ages

The number of older people in all ethnic groups is projected to increase significantly. This will see an increasing proportion of all ethnic populations aged 65+ years. Within that age group, the number and proportion of people aged 85+ will also increase.

The New Zealand population aged 65+ comprises mainly 'European or Other' people. In 2013, this ethnic group's share was 88.3 percent. The median projection indicates this will drop to 77.5 percent in 2038 despite a substantial increase in number. In contrast, the Māori, Asian, and Pacific shares are all projected to increase. By 2038, the Māori share will be 10.1 percent (up from 5.8 percent in 2013), the Asian share 13.1 percent (up from 5.1 percent), and the Pacific share 4.1 percent (up from 2.6 percent).

The level of ethnic overlap is less significant among older people, although there is an increasing incidence of multiple ethnicity overall. At the 2013 Census, 3 percent of people aged 65+ identified with more than one ethnicity (4 percent in 2006), compared with 11 percent of the population overall (10 percent in 2006).

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

More information about ethnic populations, multiple ethnicity, and birthplace

The 2013 Census asked people "Which ethnic group do you belong to? Mark the space or spaces which apply to you." The census usually resident population count of 4,242,048 included 230,649 people without an ethnic response and 4,011,399 people who identified with at least one ethnicity:

  • 3,030,051 people with a 'European' or 'Other' ethnicity
  • 598,605 with the Māori ethnicity
  • 471,708 with an Asian ethnicity
  • 295,941 with a Pacific ethnicity
  • 46,953 with a Middle Eastern/Latin American/African (MELAA) ethnicity.

'European' or 'Other'

Of the 3,030,051 people who identified with a 'European' or 'Other' ethnicity:

  • 2,969,391 identified with a 'European' ethnicity, including New Zealand European 2,727,009; English 38,913; Dutch 28,503; South African not elsewhere classified 28,656; Australian 22,470; Scottish 14,412; Irish 14,193; and German 12,810.
  • 67,752 identified with an 'Other' ethnicity, including New Zealander 65,973.
  • 2 percent (53,208) identified with more than one 'European or Other' ethnicity (eg Irish and New Zealander).
  • 12 percent (362,838) identified with ethnicities outside the 'European or Other' group.
  • 83 percent (2,500,602) of those who stated a birthplace were born in New Zealand, and 11 percent (330,867) were born in Europe (including the United Kingdom).

Māori

Of the 598,605 people identifying with Māori ethnicity:

  • 54 percent (320,409) identified with at least one other ethnicity.
  • 98 percent (579,639) of those who stated a birthplace were born in New Zealand.

Asian

Of the 471,708 people identifying with an Asian ethnicity:

  • The number identifying with Chinese ethnicities was 171,411 (including 5,715 people identifying with Taiwanese ethnicity); Indian ethnicities 155,178 (including 10,929 with Fijian-Indian); Filipino 40,350; Korean 30,171; Japanese 14,118; Sri Lankan/Sinhalese 11,274; Cambodian 8,601; Thai 8,052; Vietnamese 6,660; Malay 4,794; and Indonesian 4,137.
  • 2 percent (7,563) identified with more than one Asian ethnicity (eg Chinese and Indian).
  • 9 percent (40,579) identified with ethnicities outside the Asian group.
  • 23 percent (105,726) of those who stated a birthplace were born in New Zealand, and 66 percent (306,201) were born in Asia.

Pacific

Of the 295,941 people identifying with a Pacific ethnicity:

  • The number identifying with Samoan was 144,138; Cook Island ethnicities 61,842; Tongan 60,336; Niuean 23,883; Fijian 14,445; and Tokelauan 7,176.
  • 9 percent (25,356) identified with more than one Pacific ethnicity (eg Samoan and Tongan).
  • 32 percent (95,622) identified with ethnicities outside the Pacific group.
  • 62 percent (181,791) of those who stated a birthplace were born in New Zealand, and 37 percent (108,108) were born elsewhere in Oceania (including Australia).

See 2013 Census QuickStats about culture and identity, 2013 Census totals by topic, and information about the ethnicity variable for more information from the 2013 Census.

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