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Ethnic composition of the population

The ethnic diversity of New Zealand’s population will continue to increase, according to ethnic population projections for the period 2006–2026 released in 2010. The projections referred to here use medium assumptions about fertility, mortality and migration, and medium changes in ethnic identity over that period.8

While the European or Other population (which includes the category “New Zealander”) will continue to grow and retain the largest share, this share is projected to fall from 77 percent in mid-2006 to 70 percent in 2026. The declining share of the European or Other population reflects a relatively low average annual growth rate of 0.4 percent.

The Asian, Pacific and Māori ethnic groups are growing faster and will increase their share of the New Zealand population. For Māori, the increase in population share will be small: from 15 percent in 2006 to 16 percent in 2026. The share of Pacific peoples is projected to increase from 7 percent of the population in 2006 to 10 percent in 2026. The Asian population is projected to have the largest relative growth, averaging 3.4 percent a year. Their share of the population will increase from 10 percent in 2006 to 16 percent in 2026. While people of all other ethnicities make up less than 1 percent of the population, since 1991 they have grown in number faster than any of the major ethnic groups.

For the Māori and Pacific ethnic groups, the projected increase in population share is mainly driven by their relatively high rates of birth and natural increase, although ethnic intermarriage also makes an important contribution. The increase in the Asian population share is largely driven by levels of net migration (a net inflow of about 250,000 migrants over the 20-year period, under medium projection assumptions). The slow growth of the European or Other population is an outcome of lower fertility and an older age structure than the other major ethnic groups, as well as of a net migration outflow of around 40,000 over the 20-year projection period.9

Table P4 Ethnic share (%) of New Zealand population, by age group, 2006, 2016 and 2026

Year / Age group (years) European or
Other (including
"New Zealander")
Māori Asian Pacific peoples Middle Eastern,
Latin American,
African
2006 (estimate at 30 June)
0–17 72 24 10 12 1.2
18–24 67 18 17 9 1.3
25–44 74 14 12 7 1.2
45–64 82 10 7 4 0.6
65+ 91 5 4 2 0.2
Total 77 15 10 7 0.9
2016 (projected)
0–17 69 26 13 15 ..
18–24 66 19 16 11 ..
25–44 67 15 18 8 ..
45–64 77 11 10 5 ..
65+ 87 6 6 3 ..
Total 73 16 13 8 ..
2026 (projected)
0–17 66 27 17 17 ..
18–24 64 21 18 13 ..
25–44 63 15 20 9 ..
45–64 72 12 14 6 ..
65+ 82 7 9 3 ..
Total 70 16 16 10 ..

Source: Statistics New Zealand
Notes: (1) People who identify with more than one ethnicity are included in each ethnic population they identify with. (2) The symbol .. means not available. (3) See Appendix 2 for projection assumptions.

Ethnic diversity varies by age: among those aged under 18 years at 30 June 2006, people with a European or Other ethnicity made up 72 percent, Māori 24 percent, Pacific peoples 12 percent, Asian peoples 10 percent, and people of all other ethnicities 1 percent. Among those aged 65 years and over, people with a European or Other ethnicity made up 91 percent, Māori 5 percent, Asian peoples 4 percent, Pacific peoples 2 percent and people of other ethnicities 0.2 percent. The 18–24 years age group, which includes people who come to New Zealand to study, had the greatest ethnic diversity, with only 67 percent of European or Other ethnicity.

The number of people who identify with more than one ethnic group is increasing. At the 2006 Census, 91 percent of the population identified with only one ethnic group, down from 96 percent in 1991. Younger people are far more likely to identify with more than one ethnic group than older people. In 2006, 18 percent of children aged under 15 years were reported as belonging to two or more ethnic groups, compared with 3 percent of people aged 65 years and over. Birth registration data for the December 2009 year shows that 25 percent of babies belonged to more than one ethnic group, compared with 13 percent of mothers. Belonging to multiple ethnic groups is most common among Māori: two-thirds of Māori children born in 2009 belonged to more than one ethnic group, compared with one-half of Pacific babies, and one-third of European and Asian babies.10

The figures for the ethnic distribution used in this section are based on the number of people identifying with each ethnicity. Because people can identify with more than one ethnicity, the total number of ethnic responses may be greater than the number of people. Elsewhere in the report, the approach to measuring ethnicity varies with the data source used.

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