New Zealand needs more people!

Marcus Roberts
6 Dec 2013
Reproduced with Permission
Demography is Destiny

More data has been released from New Zealand's census which was held earlier this year. The figures released show a fairly typical 21st century western nation: with population growth slowing down and the population as a whole becoming older. So, the data shows that the country is growing, albeit at half the rate that the previous census showed (0.7% per year in 2006-2013, against 1.5% in 2001-2006). The overall population is just under 4 and a quarter million people and the median age has increased to 38 years old. At the same time, the number of those aged 85 years and older is now 73,000 people (1.7% of the population). Other stats that I didn't know/found interesting include:

10% of New Zealand's dwellings are unoccupied (I think the Christchurch earthquake has a bit to do with that!)

The top four spoken languages are English, Maori, Samoan and Hindi

A quarter of New Zealand residents were born overseas (!)

20% of New Zealand adults have a university degree

The youth unemployment rate (15-24 year olds) was 18.4%

health care and social assistance is now the most common industry, reflecting the aging population

the median income is $28,500

there are nearly as many childless couples as couples with children

one parent families make up 17.8% of the whole

1.6% of households had no access to the internet, cellphone, a landline, or a fax machine.

In light of the census figures, the New Zealand Herald editorial has called for more immigration to "boost population and prosperity". As the editorial argued:

"[New Zealand's population] ought to have been more.

The population has grown less in the seven years since the last Census than it did in the five years to 2006. We should be concerned about that; population growth is normally better in periods when the economy is doing well by comparison to other advanced economies, which has been the case since 2008... Were it not for immigration, particularly from Asia, the population would barely be growing. Asians comprise the largest number of foreign-born residents in the latest Census, exceeding those born in Britain or the Pacific Islands."

This immigration is going to be increasingly important as New Zealand's ageing population fails to naturally replace itself:

"But like all developed places, New Zealand is steadily ageing. The median age of the population is 38, up two years since the previous Census and 10 years since 1981. While the numbers aged 50-70 are increasing, we have fewer children under 15 than we had seven years ago. This is not a recipe for maintaining even the latest modest population increase."

Of course, instead of, or as well as, immigration the editorial team could also have questioned New Zealander's fertility rate. It does seem odd that when calling for population growth the New Zealand Herald did not even mention having more babies. Instead the only solution that can be thought of is more immigration. But where do these immigrants come from? Maybe the editors need a lesson in the "facts of life", maybe they could go back to pre-school...