New Zealand has a uniquely ethnically diverse society, according to a recently released New Zealand demographical report.  I was surprised to learn that as many as one in four people living in New Zealand in 2013 was born in another country. In fact, Auckland (New Zealand’s largest city) is one the most immigrant-dependent cities in the world, with 39 percent of Aucklanders born overseas.

The report, entitled Our Futures: Te Pae Tawhiti, was released by an expert panel of the Royal Society of New Zealand and analyses data from the 2013 Census along with other sources. 

In particular, it reports a rapid growth in the numbers of New Zealanders who are Asian.  Making up just under 12 percent of the population, these communities are now significantly larger than Pasifika communities (7.4 percent), despite the largest Pacific population in the world residing in Auckland. New Zealand is also increasingly turning its economic focus to Asia, and has made a concerted effort to put numerous free trade agreements in place in the past few years.

However, the report also shows that, like so many others, New Zealand may have to rely on further immigration in a struggle to keep birth rates about replacement levels.  It comes as no surprise that a declining birth rate is the main driver of slowing population growth. 

Fewer New Zealand women are having children at all, and those who do have them are having fewer and at older ages. In the year ended December 2013 women aged 35–39 years had a higher fertility rate than women aged 20–24 years, while the highest fertility rate was for women aged 30–34 years.  

Also now characteristic of many countries, it’s the new entrants to the New Zealand labour market that are struggling to find meaningful stable employment, whether they are school leavers, graduates or immigrants. Since the onset of the global financial crisis in 2008 the numbers categorized as NEET (Not in Employment, Education or Training) increased significantly. The unemployed in the 15-24 age groups grew from 48,000 in 2006 to 61,000 in 2013.

However, at the other end of working life, the numbers over the age of 65 who were employed in paid work grew significantly, from 81,000 in 2006 to 129,500 in 2013. Another sign of the times – a more active aging population who is living and working longer.

Society president Sir David Skegg said the report would be of interest to anyone who cared about the future of New Zealand. “I would like to see it in the hands, or on the screens, not only of decision-makers but also of the Year 13 students who will be our future leaders,” he said.

With many of the less appealing New Zealand demographics trends also replicated around the world, we must consider how to bring about positive change in our ever-changing societies, while appreciating and encouraging those things that are already positive.

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...