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Demographics of New Zealand

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Demographics of New Zealand
2013 NZ Census population pyramid.gif
Population pyramid taken from the 2013 census
Population5,084,300 (Stats NZ June 2020 estimate)
Density19/km2 (49.2/sq mi)
Growth rate2.1% (Stats NZ projection)[1]
Birth rate12.43 per 1000 pop.[2]
Death rate6.95 per 1000 pop.[2]
Life expectancy
 • male79.9 years[3]
 • female83.4 years[3]
Fertility rate1.81 births per woman[2]
Infant mortality rate3.87 per 1000 live births[2]
Net migration rate14.72 per 1000 pop.[1]
Age structure
0–14 years19.6%[1]
15–64 years65.5%[1]
65 and over14.9%[1]
Sex ratio
Total0.97 males/female[1]
Under 151.05 males/female[1]
15–64 years0.97 males/female[1]
65 and over0.87 males/female[1]
NationalityNew Zealander
Major ethnicEuropean 71.8%[4]
Minor ethnic[n 1][4]

The demographics of New Zealand encompass the gender, ethnic, religious, geographic, and economic backgrounds of the 5 million people living in New Zealand. New Zealanders, informally known as "Kiwis", predominantly live in urban areas on the North Island. The five largest cities are Auckland (with approximately one-third of the country's population), Christchurch (in the South Island, the largest island of the New Zealand archipelago), Wellington, Hamilton, and Tauranga. Few New Zealanders live on New Zealand's smaller islands. Waiheke Island (near Auckland) is easily the most populated smaller island with 9,660 residents, while Great Barrier Island, the Chatham and Pitt Islands, and Stewart Island each have populations below 1,000. New Zealand is part of a realm and most people born in the realm's external territories of Tokelau, the Ross Dependency, the Cook Islands and Niue are entitled to New Zealand passports.

As at the 2018 census, the majority of New Zealand's population is of European descent (70 percent), with the indigenous Māori being the largest minority (16.5 percent), followed by Asians (15.3 percent), and non-Māori Pacific Islanders (9.0 percent).[4] This is reflected in immigration, with most new migrants coming from Britain and Ireland, although the numbers from Asia in particular are increasing. Auckland is the most ethnically diverse region in New Zealand with 43.0 percent identifying as Europeans, 28.5 percent as Asian, 11 percent as Māori, 15.5 percent as Pacific Islanders, and 2 percent as Middle Eastern, Latin American or African (MELAA).[6] Compared to the diversity of the population as a whole, the population aged under 18 years is considerably more ethnically diverse.[7]

English, Māori and New Zealand Sign Language are the official languages, with English predominant. New Zealand English is mostly non-rhotic and sounds similar to Australian English, with a common exception being the centralisation of the short i. The Māori language has undergone a process of revitalisation and is spoken by 4 percent of the population. New Zealand has an adult literacy rate of 99 percent and over half of the population aged 15–29 hold a tertiary qualification.[clarification needed] In the adult population 14.2 percent have a bachelor's degree or higher, 30.4 percent have some form of secondary qualification as their highest qualification and 22.4 percent have no formal qualification. As at the 2018 census, 37 percent of the population identify as Christians, with Hinduism and Buddhism being the largest minority religions; almost half of the population (48.5 percent) is irreligious.[4]

Farming is a major occupation in New Zealand, although more people are employed as sales assistants. Most New Zealanders earn wage or salary income, with a median personal income in 2013 of NZ$28,500.[8]


While the demonym for a New Zealand citizen is New Zealander, the informal "Kiwi" is commonly used both internationally[9] and by locals.[10] The name derives from the kiwi, a native flightless bird, which is the national symbol of New Zealand. The Māori loanword "Pākehā" usually refers to New Zealanders of European descent, although some reject this appellation,[11][12] and some Māori use it to refer to all non-Polynesian New Zealanders.[13] Most people born in New Zealand or one of the realm's external territories (Tokelau, the Ross Dependency, the Cook Islands and Niue) before 2006 are New Zealand citizens. Further conditions apply for those born from 2006 onwards.[n 2][15]


National population projection from 1948 to 2068 using 2016 as the base year. Data before 2016 are historical estimates, beyond 2016 are projections with confidence intervals.
Change in population by region in New Zealand based on the 2006–2013 censuses

The 2018 census enumerated a resident population of 4,699,755 – a 10.8 percent increase over the population recorded in the 2013 census.[4] As of June 2021, the total population has risen to an 5,123,030 (estimated by extrapolation).[16] The population is increasing at a rate of 1.4–2.0 percent per year.[17] In May 2020, Statistics New Zealand reported that New Zealand's population had climbed above 5 million people in March 2020;[18] in September 2020, this was revised six months earlier to September 2019 when population estimates were rebased to the 2018 census.[19]

The median child birthing age was 30 and the total fertility rate is 2.1 births per woman in 2010. In Māori populations the median age is 26 and fertility rate 2.8.[20] In 2010 the age-standardised mortality rate was 3.8 deaths per 1000 (down from 4.8 in 2000) and the infant mortality rate for the total population was 5.1 deaths per 1000 live births.[20] The life expectancy of a New Zealand child born in 2014-16 was 83.4 years for females, and 79.9 years for males,[3] which is among the highest in the world. Life expectancy at birth is forecast to increase from 80 years to 85 years in 2050 and infant mortality is expected to decline.[21] In 2050 the median age is forecast to rise from 36 years to 43 years and the percentage of people 60 years of age and older rising from 18 percent to 29 percent.[21][n 3] During early migration in 1858, New Zealand had 131 males for every 100 females, but following changes in migration patterns and the modern longevity advantage of women, females came to outnumber males in 1971.[23] As of 2012 there are 0.99 males per female, with males dominating under 15 years and females dominating in the 65 years or older range.[24]

Historical total fertility rates[edit]

The total fertility rate is the number of children born per woman. It is based on fairly good data for the entire period. Sources: Our World in Data and Gapminder Foundation.[25]

The following figures show the total fertility rates since the first years of British colonisation.

Total fertility rates since the first years of British colonisation
Years 1855 1856 1857 1858 1859 1860[25]
Total Fertility Rate in New Zealand 5.25 5.07 5.29 5.12 4.96 5.06
Years 1861 1862 1863 1864 1865 1866 1867 1868 1869 1870[25]
Total Fertility Rate in New Zealand 5.16 4.84 4.73 5.16 5.51 5.75 5.65 5.65 5.61 5.67
Years 1871 1872 1873 1874 1875 1876 1877 1878 1879 1880[25]
Total Fertility Rate in New Zealand 5.45 5.29 5.22 5.37 5.39 5.59 5.53 5.62 5.4 5.46
Years 1881 1882 1883 1884 1885 1886 1887 1888 1889 1890[25]
Total Fertility Rate in New Zealand 5.09 5 4.86 4.81 4.6 4.44 4.3 4.18 4.03 3.94
Years 1891 1892 1893 1894 1895 1896 1897 1898 1899 1900[25]
Total Fertility Rate in New Zealand 3.89 3.73 3.68 3.66 3.59 3.53 3.48 3.45 3.37 3.43
Years 1901 1902 1903 1904 1905 1906 1907 1908 1909 1910[25]
Total Fertility Rate in New Zealand 3.53 3.47 3.57 3.61 3.65 3.63 3.66 3.68 3.66 3.51
Years 1911 1912 1913 1914 1915 1916 1917 1918 1919 1920[25]
Total Fertility Rate in New Zealand 3.48 3.55 3.5 3.48 3.39 3.48 3.44 3.14 2.87 3.36

Vital statistics[edit]

Current vital statistics[edit]

New Zealand has a growing population, as measured:[27]

  • Births from January to March 2020 = Decrease 14,538
  • Births from January to March 2021 = Decrease 14,070
  • Deaths from January to March 2020 = Positive decrease 7,938
  • Deaths from January to March 2021 = Negative increase 8,235
  • Natural growth from January to March 2020 = Increase 6,600
  • Natural growth from January to March 2021 = Decrease 5,835

Population density[edit]

Population density as of the 2006 census
  Fewer than 1 person per square km
  1 person per square km and above
  10 people per square km and above
  250 people per square km and above
  1000 people per square km and above
  4000 people per square km and above

New Zealand's population density is relatively low, at 19 per square kilometre (49.2 per square mile) (June 2020 estimate).[28] The vast majority of the population live on the main North and South Islands, with New Zealand's major inhabited smaller islands being Waiheke Island (9,660), the Chatham and Pitt Islands (760), and Stewart Island (381).[28] Over three-quarters of the population live in the North Island (76.6 percent), with one-third of the total population living in the Auckland Region. This region is also the fastest growing, accounting for 46 percent of New Zealand's total population growth. Most Māori live in the North Island (86.0 percent), although less than a quarter (23.8 percent) live in Auckland.[29] New Zealand is a predominantly urban country, with 84.1 percent of the population living in an urban area. About 65.4 percent of the population live in the 20 main urban areas (population of 30,000 or more) and 44.2 percent live in the four largest cities of Auckland, Christchurch, Wellington, and Hamilton.[28]

Approximately 14 percent of the population live in four different categories of rural areas as defined by Statistics New Zealand. About 18 percent of the rural population live in areas that have a high urban influence (roughly 12.9 people per square kilometre), many working in the main urban area. Rural areas with moderate urban influence and a population density of about 6.5 people per square kilometre account for 26 percent of the rural population. Areas with low urban influence where the majority of the residents work in the rural area house approximately 42 percent of the rural population. Remote rural areas with a density of less than 1 person per square kilometre account for about 14 percent of the rural population.[30]

Before local government reforms in the late 1980s, a borough council with more than 20,000 people could be proclaimed a city.[31][32] The boundaries of councils tended to follow the edge of the built-up area, so there was little difference between the urban area and the local government area. In 1989, all councils were consolidated into regional councils (top tier) and territorial authorities (second tier) which cover a much wider area and population than the old city councils.[33] Today a territorial authority must have a predominantly urban population of at least 50,000 before it can be officially recognised as a city.[34] The 20 largest urban areas are listed below:

CIA World Factbook statistics[edit]

Demographic statistics according to the CIA World Factbook, unless otherwise indicated.[35]

4,545,627 (July 2018 est.)
4,510,327 (July 2017 est.)
Age structure
  • 0–14 years: 19.62% (male 457,071/ female 434,789)
  • 15–24 years: 13.16% (male 307,574/ female 290,771)
  • 25–54 years: 39.58% (male 902,909/ female 896,398)
  • 55–64 years: 12.06% (male 266,855/ female 281,507)
  • 65 years and over: 15.57% (male 327,052/ female 380,701) (2018 est.)
  • 0–14 years: 19.69% (male 454,982/ female 432,877)
  • 15–24 years: 13.35% (male 309,707/ female 292,586)
  • 25–54 years: 39.82% (male 900,374/ female 895,615)
  • 55–64 years: 11.89% (male 261,097/ female 275,151)
  • 65 years and over: 15.25% (male 318,089/ female 369,849) (2017 est.)
Median age
total: 38.1 years. Country comparison to the world: 62nd
male: 37.2 years
female: 39 years (2018 est.)
total: 37.9 years
male: 37.1 years
female: 38.8 years (2017 est.)
Total fertility rate
2.01 children born/woman (2018 est.) Country comparison to the world: 116th
2.02 children born/woman (2017 est.)
Mother's mean age at first birth
27.8 years (2009 est.)
Population growth rate
0.77% (2018 est.) Country comparison to the world: 133rd
0.79% (2017 est.)
Birth rate
13.1 births/1,000 population (2018 est.) Country comparison to the world: 145th
13.2 births/1,000 population (2017 est.)
Death rate
7.6 deaths/1,000 population (2018 est.) Country comparison to the world: 106th
7.5 deaths/1,000 population (2017 est.)
Net migration rate
2.2 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2017 est.) Country comparison to the world: 44th
Life expectancy at birth
total population: 81.4 years (2018 est.)
male: 79.2 years (2018 est.)
female: 83.6 years (2018 est.)
Infant mortality rate
total: 4.4 deaths/1,000 live births (2018 est.) Country comparison to the world: 183rd
male: 4.9 deaths/1,000 live births (2018 est.)
female: 3.8 deaths/1,000 live births (2018 est.)
urban population: 86.5% of total population (2018)
rate of urbanization: 1.01% annual rate of change (2015–20 est.)
Dependency ratios
total dependency ratio: 52.9
youth dependency ratio: 30.5
elderly dependency ratio: 22.4
potential support ratio: 4.5 (2015 est.)
Sex ratio
at birth: 1.05 male(s)/ female
0–14 years: 1.05 male(s)/ female
15–24 years: 1.06 male(s)/ female
25–54 years: 1 male(s)/ female
55–64 years: 0.95 male(s)/ female
65 years and over: 0.86 male(s)/ female
total population: 0.99 male(s)/ female (2017 est.)
School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education)
total: 19 years
male: 18 years
female: 20 years (2014)
Unemployment, youth ages 15–24
total: 12.7% (2017 est.) Country comparison to the world: 104th
male: 12.4% (2017 est.)
female: 13% (2017 est.)


Lion dancers wearing bright red and yellow costumes
New Zealand's fastest growing ethnic groups are Asian. Here, lion dancers perform at the Auckland Lantern Festival.
Countries of birth of New Zealand residents, 2018 census[36]
Country Number %
 New Zealand 3,370,122 72.60
 England 210,915 4.54
 Mainland China 132,906 2.86
 India 117,348 2.53
 Australia 75,696 1.63
 South Africa 71,382 1.54
 Philippines 69,036 1.46
 Fiji 62,310 1.34
 Samoa 55,512 1.20
 South Korea 30,975 0.67
 United States 27,678 0.60
 Tonga 26,856 0.58
 Scotland 26,136 0.56
 Malaysia 19,860 0.43
 Netherlands 19,329 0.42
 Germany 16,605 0.36
 United Kingdom (nfd) 14,601 0.31
 Sri Lanka 14,349 0.31
 Japan 13,107 0.28
 Canada 11,928 0.26
 Cook Islands 11,925 0.26
 Hong Kong 10,992 0.24
 Ireland 10,494 0.23
 Taiwan 10,440 0.22
 Thailand 10,251 0.22
Other countries 202,548 4.36

East Polynesians were the first people to reach New Zealand about 1280, followed by the early European explorers, notably James Cook in 1769 who explored New Zealand three times and mapped the coastline. Following the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840 when the country became a British colony, immigrants were predominantly from Britain, Ireland and Australia. Due to restrictive policies, limitations were placed on non-European immigrants.[37] During the gold rush period (1858–1880s) large number of young men came from California and Victoria to New Zealand goldfields. Apart from British, there were Irish, Germans, Scandinavians, Italians and many Chinese. The Chinese were sent special invitations by the Otago Chamber of Commerce in 1866. By 1873 they made up 40 percent of the diggers in Otago and 25 percent of the diggers in Westland.[38] From 1900 there was also significant Dutch, Dalmatian,[39] and Italian immigration together with indirect European immigration through Australia, North America, South America and South Africa.[40] Following the Great Depression policies were relaxed and migrant diversity increased. In 2008–09, a target of 45,000 migrants was set by the New Zealand Immigration Service (plus a 5,000 tolerance).[41]

At the 2018 census, 27.4 percent of people counted were not born in New Zealand, up from 25.2 percent in 2013. In 2013, over half (51.6 percent) of New Zealand's overseas-born population lived in the Auckland Region, including 72 percent of the country's Pacific Island-born population, 64 percent of its Asian-born population, and 56 percent of its Middle Eastern and African- born population.[42][needs update] In the late 2000s, Asia overtook the British Isles as the largest source of overseas migrants; in 2013 around 32 percent of overseas-born New Zealand residents were born in Asia (mainly China, India, the Philippines and South Korea) compared to 26 percent born in the UK and Ireland.[43] The number of fee-paying international students increased sharply in the late 1990s, with more than 20,000 studying in public tertiary institutions in 2002.[44]

To be eligible for entry under the skilled migrant plan applicants are assessed by an approved doctor for good health, provide a police certificate to prove good character and speak sufficient English. Migrants working in some occupations (mainly health) must be registered with the appropriate profession body before they can work within that area.[45] Skilled migrants are assessed by Immigration New Zealand and applicants that they believe will contribute are issued with a residential visa, while those with potential are issued with a work to resident visa.[46] Under the work to residency process applicants are given a temporary work permit for two years and are then eligible to apply for residency.[47] Applicants with a job offer from an accredited New Zealand employer, cultural or sporting talent, looking for work where there has been a long-term skill shortage or to establish a business can apply for work to residency.[47][48]

While most New Zealanders live in New Zealand, there is also a significant diaspora abroad, estimated as of 2001 at over 460,000 or 14 percent of the international total of New Zealand-born. Of these, 360,000, over three-quarters of the New Zealand-born population residing outside of New Zealand, live in Australia. Other communities of New Zealanders abroad are concentrated in other English-speaking countries, specifically the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada, with smaller numbers located elsewhere.[49] Nearly one quarter of New Zealand's highly skilled workers live overseas, mostly in Australia and Britain, more than any other developed nation.[50] However many educated professionals from Europe and lesser developed countries have recently migrated to New Zealand.[51][52] A common pathway for New Zealanders to move to the UK is through a job offer via the Tier 2 (General) visa, which grants a 3-year initial stay in the country and can later be extended with three more years. After 5 years the person can apply for permanent residency. Another popular option is the UK Working Holiday visa, also known as "Youth Mobility Scheme" (YMS), which grants New Zealanders 2-year rights to live and work in the UK.[53]


Ethnic groups as per the 2013 census.[54][needs update]
  Mixed European-Māori
  Mixed (excluding European-Māori)

New Zealand is a multiethnic society, and home to people of many different national origins. Originally composed solely of the Māori who arrived in the thirteenth century, the ethnic makeup of the population later became dominated by New Zealanders of European descent.[55] In the nineteenth century, European settlers brought diseases for which the Māori had no immunity. By the 1890s, the Māori population was approximately 40 percent of its size pre-contact.[55] The Māori population increased during the twentieth century,[56] though it remains a minority. The 1961 New Zealand census recorded that the population was 92 percent European and 7 percent Māori, with Asian and Pacific minorities sharing the remaining 1 percent.[57]

At the latest census in 2018, 71.7 percent identified as European, 16.5 percent as Māori, 15.1 percent as Asian, 8.1 percent as Pacific peoples, and 1.2 percent as Middle-Eastern, Latin American, and African (MELAA).[n 1][58] Most New Zealanders are of English,[59] Scottish,[60] and Irish ancestry,[61] with smaller percentages of other European ancestries, such as Dutch, Dalmatian, French, German and Scandinavian.[62] Auckland was the most diverse region with 43.0 percent identifying as European, 28.5 percent as Asian, 11 percent as Māori, 15.5 percent as Pacific Islanders and 1 percent as MELAA.[63]

All major ethnic groups except European increased when compared with the 2013 census, in which 74 percent identified as European, 14.6 percent as Māori, 11.8 percent as Asian, and 7.4 percent of Pacific Islander origin.[54] Heightened immigration from Asia and the Pacific,[43] and recent increases in interracial marriages have resulted in the population of Māori, Asian and Pacific Islander descent growing at a higher rate than those of European descent.[64] Moreover, non-European ethnic groups make up a greater proportion of the under-18 population. For instance, in 2013,[54] the population aged under 18 years was 71 percent European, 25 percent Māori, 13 percent Pacific, 12 percent Asian, and 1 percent MELAA,[65] while the population aged 65 years and older consisted of 87.8 percent European, 5.6 percent Māori, 4.7 percent Asian and 2.4 percent Pacific.[66]

There was significant public discussion about usage of the term "New Zealander" during the months leading up to the 2006 census.[67] The number of people identifying with this term increased from approximately 80,000 (2.4 percent) in 2001 to just under 430,000 people (11.1 percent) in 2006.[68] The European grouping significantly decreased from 80.0 percent of the population in 2001 to 67.6 percent in 2006, however, this is broadly proportional to the large increase in "New Zealanders".[68] The number of people identifying as a "New Zealander" dropped back to under 66,000 in 2013,[68] and further declined to about 45,300 in 2018.[58]

Statistics New Zealand has not released official statistical counts of Māori iwi (tribes) from the 2018 census due to a low response rate.[69] As last recorded in the 2013 census, the largest iwi is Ngāpuhi with 125,601 people (or 18.8 percent of people of Māori descent).[29] Between 2006 and 2013 the number of people of Māori descent stating Ngāpuhi as their iwi increased by 3,390 people (2.8 percent). The second-largest was Ngāti Porou, with 71,049 people (down 1.2 percent from 2006). Ngāi Tahu was the largest in the South Island and the third-largest overall, with a count of 54,819 people (an increase of 11.4 percent from 2006). A total of 110,928 people (or 18.5 percent) of Māori descent did not know their iwi (an increase of 8.4 percent compared with 2006).[29] A group of Māori migrated to Rēkohu, now known as the Chatham Islands, where they developed their distinct Moriori culture.[70][71] The Moriori population was decimated, first, by disease brought by European sealers and whalers and, second, by Taranaki Māori, with only 101 surviving in 1862 and the last known full-blooded Moriori dying in 1933.[71] The number of people identifying as having Moriori descents increased from 105 in 1991 to 945 in 2006,[72] but decreased to 738 in 2013.[73]

Ethnicity 2001 census 2006 census 2013 census 2018 census
Number % Number % Number % Number %
European 2,871,432 80.1 2,609,589 67.6 2,969,391 74.0 3,297,864 70.2
   New Zealand European 2,696,724 75.2 2,381,076 61.7 2,727,009 68.0 3,013,440 64.1
   British & Irish 100,668 2.6 105,765 2.6 121,986 2.6
   South African European 14,913 0.4 21,609 0.6 28,656 0.7 37,155 0.8
   European (not further defined) 23,598 0.7 21,855 0.6 26,472 0.7 34,632 0.7
   Dutch 27,507 0.8 28,644 0.7 28,503 0.7 29,820 0.6
   Australian 20,784 0.6 26,355 0.7 22,467 0.6 29,349 0.6
Māori 526,281 14.7 565,329 14.6 598,605 14.9 775,836 16.5
Asian 238,179 6.6 354,552 9.2 471,708 11.8 707,598 15.1
   Chinese 100,680 2.8 139,731 3.6 163,101 4.1 247,770 5.3
   Indian 60,213 1.7 97,443 2.5 143,520 3.6 239,193 5.1
   Southeast Asian 43,962 1.1 77,733 1.9 124,932 2.7
   Other Asian 59,739 1.5 68,004 1.7 90,627 1.9
Pacific Peoples 231,798 6.5 265,974 6.9 295,941 7.4 381,642 8.1
   Samoan 115,017 3.2 131,103 3.4 144,138 3.6 182,721 3.9
   Tongan 40,716 1.1 50,481 1.3 60,333 1.5 82,389 1.8
   Cook Islands Māori 51,486 1.4 56,895 1.5 61,077 1.5 80,532 1.7
   Niuean 20,148 0.6 22,476 0.6 23,883 0.6 30,867 0.7
Middle Eastern/Latin American/African 24,084 0.7 34,743 0.9 46,953 1.2 70,332 1.5
Other 801 <0.1 430,881 11.2 67,752 1.7 58,053 1.2
   New Zealander N/A 429,429 11.1 65,973 1.6 45,330 1.0
Total people stated 3,586,644 3,860,163 4,011,399 4,699,755
Not elsewhere included 150,702 4.0 167,784 4.2 230,646 5.4

The maps below (taken from 2013 census data[54]) show the percentages of people in each census area unit identifying themselves as European, Māori, Asian, or Pacific Islander (as defined by Statistics New Zealand). As people could identify themselves with multiple groups, percentages are not cumulative.


English has long been entrenched as a de facto national language due to its widespread use.[74] In the 2018 census, 95.4 percent of respondents spoke English,[4] down from 96.1 percent in 2013.[5] The New Zealand English dialect is mostly non-rhotic with an exception being the Southern Burr found principally in Southland and parts of Otago.[75] It is similar to Australian English and many speakers from the Northern Hemisphere are unable to tell the accents apart.[76] In New Zealand English the short i (as in kit) has become centralised, leading to the phrase fish and chips sounding like "fush and chups" to the Australian ear.[77] The words rarely and really, reel and real, doll and dole, pull and pool, witch and which, and full and fill can sometimes be pronounced as homophones.[78][79][75] Some New Zealanders pronounce the past participles grown, thrown and mown using two syllables, whereas groan, throne and moan are pronounced as one syllable.[80] New Zealanders often reply to a question or emphasise a point by adding a rising intonation at the end of the sentence.[81]

Map of New Zealand showing the percentage of people in each census area unit who speak Māori. Areas of the North Island exhibit the highest Māori proficiency.
Speakers of Māori according to the 2013 census:
  Less than 5%
  More than 5%
  More than 10%
  More than 20%
  More than 30%
  More than 40%
  More than 50%

Initially, the Māori language (te reo Māori) was permitted in native schools to facilitate English instruction, but as time went on official attitudes hardened against any use of the language. Māori were discouraged from speaking their own language in schools and work places and it existed as a community language only in a few remote areas.[82] The language underwent a revival beginning in the 1970s, and now more people speak Māori.[83][84] The future of the language was the subject of a claim before the Waitangi Tribunal in 1985. As a result, Māori was declared an official language in 1987.[85] In the 2013 census, 21.3 percent of Māori people—and 3.7 percent of all respondents, including some non-Māori people—reported conversational fluency in the language.[86][n 6] There are now Māori language immersion schools and two Māori Television channels, the only nationwide television channels to have the majority of their prime-time content delivered in Māori.[88] Many places have officially been given dual Māori and English names in recent years.

In the 2018 census, 22,987 people reported the ability to use New Zealand Sign Language.[4] It was declared one of New Zealand's official languages in 2006.[89]

Samoan is the most widely spoken non-official language (2.2 percent), followed by "Northern Chinese" (including Mandarin; 2.0 percent), Hindi (1.5 percent) and French (1.2 percent).[4] A considerable proportion of first- and second-generation migrants are multilingual.[4]


Education follows the three-tier model, which includes primary schools, followed by secondary schools (high schools) and tertiary education at universities or polytechnics. The Programme for International Student Assessment ranked New Zealand's education as the seventh highest in 2009.[90] The Education Index, published with the UN's 2014 Human Development Index and based on data from 2013, listed New Zealand at 0.917, ranked second after Australia.[91]

In July 2019 there were 476,240 primary students, 278,266 secondary students, and 58,340 students attending composite (combined primary and secondary) schools.[92] Primary and secondary schooling is compulsory for children aged 6 to 16[93] with most children starting at 5. Early leaving exemptions may be granted to 15-year-old students that have been experiencing some ongoing difficulties at school or are unlikely to benefit from continued attendance.[94] Parents and caregivers can home school their children if they obtain approval from the Ministry of Education and prove that their child will be taught "as regularly and as well as in a registered school".[95] There are 13 school years and attending state (public) schools is nominally free from an individual's fifth birthday until the end of the calendar year following their 19th birthday.[95][96]

The academic year in New Zealand varies between institutions, but generally runs from late January until mid-December for primary and secondary schools and polytechnics, and from late February until mid-November for universities. New Zealand has an adult literacy rate of 99 percent,[97] and over half of the population aged 15 to 29 hold a tertiary qualification.[93][n 7] In the adult population 14.2 percent have a bachelor's degree or higher, 30.4 percent have some form of secondary qualification as their highest qualification and 22.4 percent have no formal qualification.[98]


Religious affiliation in New Zealand (2018)[4]
Affiliation[n 8] % of New Zealand population
Religious 44.93 44.93
Anglican 6.70 6.7
Roman Catholic 6.29 6.29
Presbyterian 4.71 4.71
Other Christian[n 9] 20.23 20.23
Hindu 2.63 2.63
Muslim 1.31 1.31
Buddhist 1.12 1.12
Other religions 2.83 2.83
Irreligious 48.47 48.47
Object to answering 6.66 6.66

The predominant religion in New Zealand is Christianity. As recorded in the 2018 census, about 38 percent of the population identified themselves as Christians,[4] although regular church attendance is estimated at 15 percent.[100] Another 48.5 percent indicated that they had no religion[4] (up from 41.9 percent in 2013 and 34.7 percent in 2006[101]) and around 7.5 percent affiliated with other religions.[4]

The indigenous religion of the Māori population was animistic, but with the arrival of missionaries from the early nineteenth century most of the Māori population converted to Christianity.[102] In the 2018 census, 3,699 Māori still identify themselves as adhering to "Māori religions, beliefs and philosophies".[4]

In the 2018 census, the largest reported Christian affiliations are Anglican (6.7 percent of the population), Roman Catholic (6.3 percent), Presbyterian (4.7 percent). There are also significant numbers of Christians who identify themselves with Methodist, Pentecostal, Baptist and Latter-day Saint churches, and the New Zealand-based Rātana church has adherents among Māori.[4] Immigration and associated demographic change in recent decades has contributed to the growth of minority religions,[103] especially Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam.[104][105]


New Zealand's early economy was based on sealing, whaling, flax, gold, kauri gum, and native timber.[106] During the 1880s agricultural products became the highest export earner and farming was a major occupation within New Zealand.[107] Farming is still a major employer, with 75 000 people indicating farming as their occupation during the 2006 census,[108] although dairy farming has recently taken over from sheep as the largest sector.[107] The largest occupation recorded during the census was sales assistant with 93,840 people.[108] Most people are on wages or salaries (59.9 percent), with the other sources of income being interest and investments (24.1 percent) and self-employment (16.6 percent).[109]

In 1982 New Zealand had the lowest per-capita income of all the developed nations surveyed by the World Bank.[110] In 2010 the estimated gross domestic product (GDP) at purchasing power parity (PPP) per capita was roughly US$28,250, between the thirty-first and fifty-first highest for all countries.[n 10] The median personal income in 2006 was $24,400. This was up from $15,600 in 1996, with the largest increases in the $50,000 to $70,000 bracket.[114] The median income for men was $31,500, $12,400 more than women. (see Gender pay gap in New Zealand)[115] The highest median personal income were for people identifying with the European or "other" ethnic group, while the lowest was from the Asian ethnic group. The median income for people identifying as Māori was $20,900.[116] In 2013, the median personal income had risen slightly to $28,500.[8]

Unemployment peaked above 10 percent in 1991 and 1992,[117] before falling to a record low of 3.7 percent in 2007 (ranking third from twenty-seven comparable OECD nations).[118] Unemployment rose back to 7 percent in late 2009.[119] In the June 2017 quarter, unemployment had fallen to 4.8 percent. This is the lowest unemployment rate since December 2008, after the start of the global financial crisis, when it was 4.4 percent.[120] Most New Zealanders do some form of voluntary work, more women volunteer (92 percent) than males (86 percent).[121] Home ownership has declined since 1991, from 73.8 percent to 66.9 percent in 2006.[122]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b When completing the census people could select more than one ethnic group. The proportions of people adding up to each ethnic group do not therefore add up to 100 percent.
  2. ^ A person born on or after 1 January 2006 acquires New Zealand citizenship at birth only if at least one parent is a New Zealand citizen or permanent resident. People born on or before 31 December 2005 acquired citizenship at birth (jus soli).[14]
  3. ^ By 2036 the number of people aged 65 and over is projected to increase by 77 percent over 2016. One in 4.5 will be aged 65 and over.[22]
  4. ^ For 1921–2000, population in the table means population on 1 January on the year.
    For 2001 onwards, population in the table means the average (mean) of the quarterly population figures for the year.
  5. ^ In fertility rates, 2.1 and above is a stable population and have been marked blue, 2 and below leads to an aging population with the result that the population reduces.
  6. ^ In 2015, 55 percent of Māori adults (aged 15 years and over) reported some knowledge of te reo Māori. Of these speakers, 64 percent use Māori at home and 50,000 can speak the language "very well" or "well".[87]
  7. ^ Tertiary education in New Zealand describes all aspects of post-school education and training. Its ranges from informal non-assessed community courses in schools through to undergraduate degrees and advanced, research-based postgraduate degrees.
  8. ^ This table includes all people who stated each religious affiliation, whether as their only religious affiliation or as one of several. Where a person reported more than one religious affiliation, they were counted in each applicable group.
  9. ^ Including churches designated as "Māori Christian", such as the Rātana church.[99]
  10. ^ PPP GDP estimates from different organisations vary. The International Monetary Fund's estimate is US$27,420, ranked 32.[111] The CIA World Factbook estimate is $28,000, ranked 51.[112] The World Bank's estimate is US$29,352, ranked 31.[113]


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External links[edit]

 This article incorporates public domain material from the CIA World Factbook website