National demographic indicators seriesNew Zealand

National Demographic Indicators Series

New Zealand population trends

New Zealand’s population growth can vary greatly from year to year, depending primarily on the migration rate. In recent times (pre-COVID), the nation experienced an influx of overseas arrivals, particularly from the UK, India, China, and the Pacific Islands. Australia also plays a big part in the migration puzzle with out-migration to Australia cooling in recent times with the slowing of the Australian economy. These trends have combined with a steady birth rate, to produce a higher rate of population growth than seen for many years in New Zealand.

The 2018 Census showed New Zealand's population increased by 457,713 people (10.8%), with an average annual population change of 2.07% per year over the intercensal period 2013-2018.

The largest changes in age structure in New Zealand between 2013 and 2018 were in the age groups 25 to 29 (+86,328 persons), 30 to 34 (+60,483 persons), 55 to 59 (+42,561 persons), and 5 to 9 (+35,877 persons).

This means that the ageing of the population overall has stabilised. The median age experienced a small decrease from 38.0 to 37.4. Even with this small decrease, like most western countries, New Zealand needs to prepare for a significantly larger elderly population, as the Post WWII baby boomers are well and truly entering their retirement years and will reach the elderly cohorts within the next decade.

The average household size in New Zealand is 2.58 people, with 42% of households being couples with children. Thirty-three percent of all households have a mortgage, while almost the same proportion (32%) rent. Increasing house prices have been driving a national trend towards renting, and this has continued between 2013 and 2018.

Trends are not always consistent across the nation, however, and Auckland in particular has a very different profile than other parts of the country. For instance, the average household size in Auckland is 2.88 (a decline from 2.95 in 2013), compared to the national level of 2.58. And, while Auckland accounts for 33% of New Zealand’s total population, 51% of New Zealand’s overseas-born population live there.

The national demographic indicators page can help users understand these trends, and particularly the spatial distribution of these changing characteristics across New Zealand.

We write regular commentary about population matters in the .id blog.