Ethnic Diversity Projected to Increase

Statistics New Zealand, Apr. 22

New Zealand’s Mäori, Asian and Pacific populations are projected to grow faster than the European population, according to updated 2001-base national ethnic population projections released by Statistics New Zealand. Under mid-range Series 6 projections for the respective ethnic populations: the Mäori population is projected to increase 29 percent from an estimated 590,000 in 2001 to 760,000 in 2021; the Asian population 145 percent from 270,000 to 670,000; the Pacific population 59 percent from 260,000 to 420,000; and the European population 5 percent from 3.07 million to 3.23 million.

The rapid growth of the Asian population is mainly driven by migration, with a net inflow of about 300,000 migrants assumed over the 20-year period. Natural increase (births minus deaths) will account for about 120,000 of the projected population growth.

The growth of the Mäori and Pacific populations is largely driven by births, which can be attributed to three main factors. Firstly, Mäori and Pacific women have higher fertility rates. During 2000—2002, the Mäori and Pacific total fertility rates were 2.6 and 2.9 births per woman, respectively. By comparison, the European and Asian levels were 1.8 and 1.7 births per woman, respectively. Secondly, about one-quarter of Mäori births are to non-Mäori women where the father is Mäori. A similar proportion applies to Pacific births. Thirdly, the Mäori and Pacific populations have a much younger age structure which provides a built-in momentum for future growth.

By comparison, the slower growth of the European population reflects the combination of lower fertility rates, an assumed net migration outflow of about 70,000 over the 20-year projection period, and an older age structure. The increasingly older age structure of the European population means fewer births (because of fewer women in the childbearing ages), more deaths, and lower momentum for future population growth compared with the Mäori and Pacific populations in particular.

The ethnic concept used in these projections is the ethnic group or groups that people identify with or feel they belong to. People who identify with more than one ethnicity are included in each ethnic population they identify with. The projections indicate that because of different population growth rates, the proportion of New Zealand’s population that identifies with a European ethnicity will drop from 79 percent in 2001 to 70 percent in 2021. By comparison, the proportion identifying with Mäori ethnicity will increase from 15 percent to 17 percent, with a Pacific ethnicity from 7 to 9 percent, and with an Asian ethnicity from 7 to 15 percent. About 1 percent of New Zealand’s population identified with ethnicities other than European, Mäori, Asian or Pacific in 2001.

In addition, significant changes in age structure are expected, with all ethnic groups projected to experience population ageing. The projections indicate that the median age of the European population will increase from 36.9 years in 2001 to 44.3 years in 2021, and of the Asian population from 28.6 years to 36.2 years. The Mäori and Pacific populations start with lower median ages of 22.1 years and 21.4 years and these are expected to increase to 26.4 years and 23.7 years, respectively, by 2021. The lower median age for Mäori and Pacific ethnic groups compared to the European and Asian ethnic groups is a result of higher fertility rates and lower life expectancies for Mäori and Pacific populations.

Eleven alternative projection series have been produced for each ethnic population using different assumptions about future changes in fertility, mortality, migration and inter-ethnic mobility. Series 6, referred to above, should be used as an indication, but not as an exact forecast, of future changes in the size and structure of each ethnic population. Ethnic population projections are more uncertain than projections of the total population because of the added uncertainties of changing ethnic identification and ethnic miscegenation.


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