New Zealand’s total fertility rate in 2017 decreased to an average of 1.81 births per woman over their lifetime – which is the lowest fertility rate the country has seen since records began. 

While that is still higher than many countries with more dire birth rates, such as Singapore’s 0.83 per woman or Hong Kong’s 1.19, experts are still worried about a fertility rate that is “sub replacement” level, meaning it is not high enough to maintain the current population.  It is so low largely because New Zealand women are having fewer children and having them at a later age, following international trends. Population statistics senior manager Peter Dolan commented:

“New Zealand's total fertility rate has been relatively stable for the last four decades, ranging from 1.81 births per woman in 2017 to 2.19 in 2008.

In contrast, fertility rates increased dramatically following the Great Depression and WWII, peaking at 4.31 births per woman in 1961.”

Gone are the days of young mothers with four or more children being the norm.  The reduction in birth rates since 2008 has been mainly driven by trends among women aged 15-29 years, whose birth rates are now at record lows, as women increasingly have their babies in their thirties.

However, overall the total New Zealand population still grew driven by near-record levels of migration in 2017.  In particular, the number of babies born in Auckland dropped by more than 400 to 21,393, despite the city’s overall growth due to  high immigration.

If you want to see babies, you will likely be most successful in New Zealand's smaller regions.  Most regions of New Zealand are seeing an overall upwards trend in recorded births, as more young couples choose to have children out of the country’s biggest city, Auckland, due to the city’s increasing cost of living driven in particular by high house prices.

Shannon Roberts

Shannon Roberts is co-editor of MercatorNet's blog on population issues, Demography is Destiny. While she has a background as a barrister, writing has been a life-long passion and she has contributed...