National Population Estimates: September 2009 quarter



This release contains estimates of the total population of New Zealand at 30 September 2009. Estimates by single year of age will be available on the Statistics New Zealand website (via Infoshare) on 12 February 2010.

Population estimates give the best available measure of the size and age-sex structure of the population usually living in an area. Estimates are based on the latest census data and on births, deaths, and migration since the census. National population estimates are published quarterly and subnational population estimates are published annually.

The estimates in this release are provisional. They incorporate provisional estimates of the number of births and deaths that occurred in the September 2009 year. The finalised data will be released on 12 February 2010. In addition, population estimates after 30 June 2006 will be revised following results from the 2011 Census of Population and Dwellings.

Estimated resident population at 30 September 2009

The estimated resident population of New Zealand was 4,331,600 at 30 September 2009, with 2,125,900 males and 2,205,700 females. At 30 September 2009, there were 96 males for every 100 females.

Graph, estimated resident population at September 1995-2009                   Graph, annual population change at September 1995-2009

Annual population change

In the September 2009 year, the estimated resident population grew by 51,700 (1.2 percent), compared with 39,900 (0.9 percent) in the previous September year. The population growth in the September 2009 year was higher than the average annual increase of 49,000 (1.2 percent) recorded during the 10-year period from September 1999 to September 2009.

The population growth for the September 2009 year resulted from a natural increase (excess of births over deaths) of 34,700 and a net permanent and long-term migration gain of 17,000. The level of net permanent and long-term migration was the highest for a September year since 2004 (17,800). Historically, natural increase has been the dominant element in population growth. Over the last 40 years, natural increase accounted for four-fifths of New Zealand's total population growth. During the September 2009 year, natural increase accounted for two-thirds of population growth.

Quarterly population change

During the September 2009 quarter, New Zealand's estimated resident population grew by 15,800 (0.4 percent). This growth resulted from a natural increase of 8,400, and a net permanent and long-term migration gain of 7,400. In comparison, for the September 2008 quarter, natural increase was slightly lower (8,100) and a net migration gain of 2,900 resulted in quarterly population growth of 11,000 (0.3 percent).

Median age

New Zealand has an ageing population because of a shift to sustained low fertility and low mortality rates. This shift is also observed in other Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries. At 30 September 2009, half New Zealand's population was over the age of 36.6 years, compared with a median age of 34.1 years a decade earlier.

Graph, median age by sex at September 1995-2009

The median age for males is now 35.5 years, while for females it is 37.5 years. Over the past decade, the median age has increased 2.2 years for males and 2.6 years for females. The lower median age for males reflects their lower life expectancy of 78.2 years, compared with 82.2 years for females (New Zealand abridged life table, 2006–2008).


Changes in age composition

The age composition of New Zealand's population has changed over the past decade. In the 10 years ended 30 September 2009, the number of children (aged 0–14 years) grew to 892,400, an average annual increase of 1,500 (0.2 percent). For the year ended 30 September 2009, the increase in the number of children of 2,800 (0.3 percent) was above the annual average for the decade. At 30 September 2009, children accounted for 21 percent of the New Zealand population, down from 23 percent at 30 September 1999.

At 30 September 2009, the population aged 15–39 years reached 1,489,500, an increase of 11,400 (0.8 percent) compared with the September 2008 figure. In the 10 years ended September 2009, the average annual increase for this age group was lower, at 7,800 (0.5 percent). The population aged 15–39 accounted for 34 percent of the New Zealand population at 30 September 2009, down from 37 percent a decade earlier.

Graph, average annual population change by age group and sex, ten years ended September 2009

Thirty-two percent of the population were aged 40–64 years at 30 September 2009, up from 29 percent in 1999. This age group increased by 22,400 (1.6 percent) in the year ended 30 September 2009, to reach 1,393,600, which was below the average annual increase of 29,000 (2.4 percent) for the 10 years ended September 2009.

During the September 2009 year, the population aged 65–79 years increased by 10,400 (2.6 percent) to reach 409,300. In the 10 years ended September 2009, the population aged 65–79 years grew at an average annual rate of 1.7 percent (6,400). The proportion of the population aged 65–79 years was 9.4 percent at 30 September 2009, up from 9.0 percent in 1999.

In the 10 years ended September 2009, there was also a slight increase in the proportion of the population aged 80 years and over (80+), from 2.7 percent in 1999 to 3.4 percent in September 2009. The 80+ population reached 146,700 at 30 September 2009, an average annual increase of 4,400 (3.6 percent) over the decade. The size and growth rate of this age group varied significantly by sex. The average annual growth rate for males for the decade was 5.0 percent, compared with 2.8 percent for females. In the year ended 30 September 2009, the male population in the 80+ age group increased by 4.9 percent (2,700), to reach 56,700, while the female population increased by 2.3 percent (2,000), to 90,100.

Trends in the working-age population, 1979–2009

The population aged 15–64 years is commonly known as the working-age population. Demographic dependency ratios usually relate the number of people in dependent age groups (defined as those aged  0–14 years and 65+ years) to the working-age population (those aged 15–64 years). Note that some people aged 15–64 years may not be in the workforce, while some people aged 65+ may still be in the workforce.

The working-age population increased 47 percent between the September 1979 and 2009 years, compared with total population growth of 39 percent in the same period. In September 1979 there were 1,956,000 people of working-age. That number has grown to reach 2,883,100 in 2009.

Graph, working-age population by age group at September 1979-2009

Within the broad working-age category, the 15–39-year age group has remained the dominant group. Sixty-three percent of the working-age population were aged 15–39 years in the September years from 1979–87. Since 1988, the proportion of this younger working-age population has steadily declined, down to 52 percent in the year ended September 2009. In 1979, the proportion of the working-age population aged 40–64 years was 37 percent, and that proportion has risen steadily to reach 48 percent in the year ended September 2009.

A growing proportion of older New Zealanders are continuing to work beyond the age of entitlement for New Zealand Superannuation (65 years). Among OECD countries, New Zealand has one of the highest labour force participation rates for the 65+ age group (Labour Force Participation of New Zealanders Aged 65 Years and Over, 1986–2006). In 2006, 17 percent (or one in six) of New Zealand residents aged 65+ were in the labour force, up from less than 7 percent in 1986.


Population clock

Statistics NZ's online population clock gives a real-time approximation of the estimated resident population of New Zealand. The population clock uses the latest quarterly estimated resident population, and estimates for the expected number of births, deaths, and net migration during the following quarter. The settings for each component (births, deaths, and net migration) are derived by converting the quarterly estimated totals into a 'per minute' figure, making allowance for the number of days per quarter. The population clock can be viewed on the Statistics NZ website:

Different population concepts

Users of population statistics need to be aware that there are three main population measures produced by Statistics NZ: the census night population count, the census usually resident population count, and the estimated resident population. The population counts published from the census are not comparable with the estimated resident population. The estimated resident population includes adjustments for net census undercount and for New Zealand residents temporarily overseas on census night. For more information see the 'Technical notes' section of this release.

For technical information contact:
Joel Watkins or Esther Hogenhout
Christchurch 03 964 8700

Next release ...

National Population Estimates: December 2009 quarter will be released on 12 February 2010.