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Teachers page: Our ageing population

Curriculum links

Geography Level 5
Population Studies: Structure of New Zealand's population, distribution and growth patterns.
Social Studies Level 5
Time, Continuity and Change: How past events influenced relationships within and between groups of people and continue to influence them, ie baby boom (post-World War II) and the ageing population today.


Statistics New Zealand publishes a variety of demographic information on the website. The 2006 Census collected information about New Zealand's population such as the age and sex structure. Since then, population projections have been formulated to give insights into future changes in population size and structure. Historical information and projections are published on the website. This information shows how our population is ageing by using population pyramids, dependency ratios, graphs and facts from material published on the website.

Population pyramids are used to show age structure. The pyramids below show the age structure of the New Zealand population as well as those of the European, Māori, Asian and Pacific peoples ethnic groups.

Estimated Resident Population by Ethnic Group (Total Response), At 30 June 2006

 European Ethnicity Population Pyramid, 2006, image.  Maori Ethnicity Population Pyramid, 2006, image.

Note: People who identify with more than one ethnicity are included in each ethnic population.


The median age of the New Zealand population in 2001 was 35 years. Compare this with the ethnic groups shown above. What do you notice?

Dependency ratios

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

Over the next five decades the 65+ dependency ratio is projected to more than double, from 18 (people aged 65+ years) per 100 (people aged 15-64 years) in 2006 to 45 per 100 in 2061. This means that for every person aged 65+ years, there will be 2.2 people in the working-age group in 2061, compared with 5.4 people in 2006.

Demographic Dependency Ratios
1951-2061, Projection series 5

Image, dependancy ratios.

Ageing in other countries

The United Nations projections show a number of developed countries will have a median age over 50 years by 2050, including Germany (51 years), Greece (52 years), Japan (53 years), Italy and Austria (54 years) and Spain (55 years). The proportion of their populations aged 65+ years in 2050 is expected to vary, from 31 percent for Germany to 38 percent for Spain.

How does New Zealand's ageing population compare with that of other countries?