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New Zealand’s population nears 5.1 million – Media release

23 September 2020

New Zealand’s estimated resident population reached 5,084,300 at 30 June 2020, Stats NZ said today.

These are the first population estimates to fully incorporate the 2018 Census and 2018 Post-enumeration survey (PES) results.

“One of the purposes of running a census is to recalibrate national and subnational population estimates,” population insights senior manager Brooke Theyers said.

“The census coverage results from the 2018 PES, also released today, are crucial to ensure the population estimates are the best possible measure of how many people live in every community across New Zealand.”

This is a normal revision of population estimates that takes place after census and PES results are available. Estimates back to 2013 have now been revised. Estimates after 30 June 2018 now use the 2018-base estimated resident population as the starting-point.

New Zealand’s resident population based on the 2018 Census is estimated to be 4,900,600 at 30 June 2018. This is higher by 60,000 than the previous estimate at that date. The population is estimated to have eclipsed 5 million in September 2019. Provisional estimates initially indicated the milestone was reached in March 2020 (see New Zealand’s population passes 5 million).

“The updated estimates confirm that the growth of New Zealand’s population has been relatively high, averaging 1.9 percent a year in the 7 years ended June 2020,” Mrs Theyers said.

“Growth in the previous 20 years averaged 1.1 percent a year.”

The higher population growth since 2013 was driven by net migration (migrant arrivals minus migrant departures), which contributed two-thirds of the growth, or an average of 56,000 a year. Natural increase (births minus deaths) contributed the remaining one-third, or an average of 27,500 a year.

Over one million New Zealanders aged 60+

The 60+ population grew by 214,100 (3.2 percent a year) between 2013 and 2020 to nearly 1.1 million at 30 June 2020. This age group now accounts for 21 percent of New Zealand’s population. The increasing number and share of the population in the older ages reflects the combined long-term effect of people having fewer children and people living longer. The trend is accentuated by the large number of people born between 1950 and the early 1970s progressing into the 60+ age group.

For the first time, the population aged 60+ now exceeds the number of children (under 15 years), which grew since 2013 by 57,600 (0.9 percent a year) to 966,400 in June 2020.

Most age groups experienced growth since 2013. Those aged 25–34 years experienced some of the largest growth, up 204,800 (4.6 percent a year) between 2013 and 2020. Net migration was a major contributor to growth at these ages.

“Net migration gains in the younger working ages caused the median age of the population to decline slightly from 37.6 years in 2013 to 37.2 years in 2018,” Mrs Theyers said.

“This is likely to be a temporary reversal in the upward trend in the median age, which has climbed from 25.6 years in 1970.”

“As of June 2020, half of our population is younger than 37.4 years, and half is older.”

All ethnic groups increased in population

Population estimates for five broad and overlapping ethnic groups are available. These indicate that all five groups increased in population between June 2013 and June 2018:

  • ‘European or Other (including New Zealander)’ ethnic population increased by an average of 0.8 percent a year to 3,441,700
  • Māori ethnic population increased by 3.4 percent a year to 816,500
  • Asian ethnic population increased by 7.3 percent a year to 770,600
  • Pacific ethnic population increased by 3.4 percent a year to 407,700
  • Middle Eastern, Latin American, and African ethnic population grew by 7.7 percent a year to 77,000.

As a result of the different growth rates, ethnic population shares continue to change. One in six of the population now identifies with Māori ethnicity, although among those under 25 years the ratio is 1 in 4.

“Different ethnic population growth rates mainly reflect a different mix of birth rates, migration rates and age structure,” Mrs Theyers said.

“The median age of Māori and Pacific people is 25.6 and 23.7 years, respectively, while those identifying with a European ethnicity have a median age of 41.2 years.”

The ethnic groups are not mutually exclusive because people can and do identify with more than one ethnicity. People who identify with more than one ethnicity are included in each ethnic group they identified with. In 2018, 1 in 9 people identified with more than one of the major ethnic groups.

The ethnic population estimates are the best available measure of the size, age-sex structure, and geographic location of these five broad ethnic groups. However, census counts remain the best data source for detailed ethnicity data and analysis across a range of census variables. See Ethnic group summaries reveal New Zealand’s multicultural make-up.

Annual Māori population estimates

The 2018-base ERP has been used to revise the annual national-level Māori ethnic group population estimates. Normally these annual estimates would be revised back to 2013, but they have been revised back to 2006 to produce a more consistent time series, due to the under-estimation of the Māori ethnic group in 2013. As a result, the new Māori estimates are 49,200 higher than the 2013-base Māori ERP at 30 June 2013. The latest estimate of the Māori ethnic group population is 833,500 at 30 June 2019. For more information see Māori ethnic group population estimates 2006–2018: Methods and results.

Delay to ERP release

ERP results were scheduled for release in March 2020. The delay to September 2020 was due to additional development and processing work required on the 2018 PES.