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National Population Estimates: September 2012 quarter
Embargoed until 10:45am  –  14 November 2012

This information release contains provisional estimates of the resident population of New Zealand at 30 September 2012. National population estimates give the best available measure of the size and age-sex structure of the population usually living in New Zealand.

Natural increase drives population growth

In the September 2012 year, the estimated resident population grew by 27,200 (0.6 percent) to reach 4,441,300. This follows an increase of 33,200 (0.8 percent) in the previous September year.

Population growth in September 2012 was due to a natural increase (more births than deaths) of 30,400, offset by a net international migration loss of 3,300. Compared with the previous September year, both natural increase and net international migration have fallen (by 2,000 and 4,100, respectively).

Five years ago, New Zealand's estimated resident population was 4.2 million. Since then the population has grown by about 0.2 million, which is approximately equivalent to the population of Wellington City. Our population is expected to continue growing. Latest national population projections (median projection) indicate that by 2036 there will be 5.4 million people in New Zealand.

Graph, Annual population change, September year, 1992–2012. Graph, Median age, by sex, at 30 September, 1992–2012.  

Median age increases 0.2 years

At 30 September 2012, half of New Zealand's population was over 37.0 years, compared with 36.8 years for the September 2011 year. New Zealand's population is ageing, due to sustained low fertility and low mortality rates. Latest national population projections (median projection) indicate that by 2061 the median age of the New Zealand population could exceed 44.0 years.

Over the last two decades, the median age has increased more for females (up 5.8 years) than for males (up 4.6 years). The median age is now 38.2 years for females and 35.7 years for males. The lower median age for males largely reflects their lower life expectancy. On average, males can expect to live 79.1 years, compared with 82.8 years for females (see New Zealand abridged period life table, 2009–11).

Two-thirds of the population are working age

The age structure of New Zealand’s population has changed over the last decade. At 30 September 2012: 

  • Children (aged 0–14 years) accounted for 20 percent (891,700) of the population, down from 22 percent in 2002.
  • The younger working-age population (aged 15–39 years) remained the largest population group, accounting for 34 percent (1,498,400) of the population, down from 36 percent in 2002. 
  • The older working-age population (aged 40–64 years) made up 32 percent (1,434,500) of the population, up from 30 percent in 2002.
  • The population aged 65 years and over (aged 65+) accounted for 14 percent (616,700) of the population, up from 12 percent in 2002.
Graph, Population by broad age group, September year, 1992–2012. Graph, Annual population change, by broad age group, at 30 September, 1992–2012.  

Faster growth in the 65+ age group

The population aged 65+ has been rising at an increasing rate over the past decade, while growth has slowed in the population aged 40–64 over the same period. The population aged 65+ is now growing faster than those aged 40–64.

In the last 10 years, the population aged 40–64 has increased by 232,700, and the 65+ age group by 147,900. In the last two years, these groups have increased by 22,200 and 43,100, respectively.

The 0–14 and 15–39 age groups have increased by 6,700 and 86,400, respectively, in the last decade. The 0–14 age group has declined by 1,200 in the last year, after a loss of 2,300 for the year ending 30 September 2010. The 15–39 age group had a loss of 2,000 in the last year, after a small growth of only 540 in the previous year.

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

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