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Birthplace and people born overseas

Number of overseas-born tops a million

The number of people living in New Zealand who were born overseas continued to climb, reaching more than 1 million people for the first time. In 2013, 1,001,787 people (25.2 percent) were born overseas, an increase of 303,159 people since the 2001 Census.

The percentages of people living in New Zealand who were born overseas were:

  • 25.2 percent in 2013
  • 22.9 percent in 2006
  • 19.5 percent in 2001.

Asia overtakes United Kingdom and Ireland to become most common birthplace for overseas-born

In 2013, the most common birthplace for people living in New Zealand but born overseas was Asia – 31.6 percent of the population were born there. In comparison, 26.5 percent of the population were born in the United Kingdom and Ireland.

In 2006, the proportion of the population born in these two birthplaces was the same, at 28.6 percent each.

(Note: in this section, birthplace refers to regional groupings of countries of birth, not individual countries.) 

Graph, Birthplace for the overseas-born census usually resident population, by years since arrival in New Zealand, 2013 Census.

Compared with people born in the United Kingdom and Ireland, people born in Asia arrived more recently to live in New Zealand. Of those who had been in New Zealand for 20 years or more at the time of the 2013 Census:

  • 13.7 percent were born in Asia
  • 53.1 percent were born in the United Kingdom and Ireland.

Less than half (47.4 percent) of the people living in New Zealand and born in Asia had been here for 10 years or more by 2013. Other birthplaces had much higher proportions of people who had lived in New Zealand for 10 years or more:

  • United Kingdom and Ireland – 67.6 percent
  • Australia – 63.9 percent
  • Pacific Islands – 62.4 percent.

The most common languages spoken by people born in Asia were:

  • English – spoken by 258,684 people (83.7 percent)
  • Northern Chinese (including Mandarin) – spoken by 44,331 people (14.3 percent).

India replaces Australia as third most common country of birth

In 2013, England and the People's Republic of China remained the first and second most common countries of birth for overseas-born people living in New Zealand.

India replaced Australia as the third most common country of birth. In 2006, India was the fifth most common. Other changes in the most common countries of birth between 2006 and 2013 were:

  • Australia dropped to fourth most common (followed by South Africa, Fiji, Samoa, Philippines, Republic of Korea, and Scotland)
  • Samoa dropped from fourth to seventh
  • Scotland dropped from eighth to tenth.
Ten most common countries of birth in 2013
For the overseas-born census usually resident population
1961 Census and 2013 Census
Birthplace Overseas-born living in New Zealand Percent of overseas-born people
1961 Census 2013 Census 1961 Census 2013 Census
England 154,869 215,589 45.7 21.5
China, People’s Republic of 4,194 89,121 1.2 8.9
India 4,752 67,176 1.4 6.7
Australia(1) 35,412 62,712 10.5 6.3
South Africa 2,190 54,276 0.6 5.4
Fiji 3,039 52,755 0.9 5.3
Samoa(2) 4,449 50,661 1.3 5.1
Philippines 33 37,299 0.0 3.7
Korea, Republic of .. 26,601 .. 2.7
Scotland 47,078 25,953 13.9 2.6

1. Includes Australian external territories.
2. At the time of the 1961 Census, Samoa was called Western Samoa.
Symbol: .. figure not available
Source: Statistics New Zealand

Scotland moved from second to tenth most common country of birth between 1961 and 2013

In 2013, 25,953 people living in New Zealand were born in Scotland (making up 2.6 percent of the overseas-born population), compared with 47,078 people in 1961 (13.9 percent).

Other significant changes between 1961 and 2013 included:

  • In 1961, 4,194 people lived in New Zealand who were born in China, compared with 89,121 in 2013.
  • In 1961, 4,752 people lived in New Zealand who were born in India, compared with 67,176 in 2013.
  • In 1961, 154,869 people lived in New Zealand who were born in England (45.7 percent of the overseas-born population), compared with 215,589 in 2013 (21.5 percent of the overseas-born population).

Auckland region has highest proportion of overseas-born

Of all regions, Auckland had the highest proportion of overseas-born people. Almost 2 in 5 people (39.1 percent) living in the Auckland region were born overseas, an increase from 37.0 percent in 2006.

The regions with the lowest proportions of overseas-born people were:

  • Gisborne – less than 1 in 10 people (9.7 percent) in the Gisborne region were born overseas
  • Southland – 10.2 percent
  • West Coast – 11.0 percent.

Graph, Proportion of people in each regional council area who are overseas-born, 2013 Census.

Auckland region had the highest proportions of people born in:

  • the Pacific Islands (8.3 percent of people living in the Auckland region were born in the Pacific Islands)
  • Asia (15.4 percent)
  • the Middle East and Africa (3.8 percent).

Nelson region had the highest proportions of people born in:

  • United Kingdom and Ireland (9.8 percent)
  • North America (1.3 percent).

Nelson and Otago regions both had the highest proportion of people born in Australia (2.0 percent each).

Tasman region had the highest proportion of people born in Europe (excluding the United Kingdom and Ireland) (2.7 percent).

In contrast, Gisborne region had the highest proportion of people born in New Zealand (90.3 percent).

Overseas-born population is older than New Zealand-born population

In 2013, the median age for people born overseas was 41.8 years, compared with 36.2 years for people born in New Zealand. Of the 10 most common countries of birth:

  • People born in England and Scotland were the oldest, with median ages of 51.3 and 58.0 years, respectively.
  • People born in India and Australia were the youngest, with median ages of 32.9 and 33.6 years, respectively.
  • India had the lowest proportion of female overseas-born, at 44.1 percent.
  • The Philippines had the highest proportion of female overseas-born, at 56.9 percent.
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