Subnational ethnic population projections 2013 (base) – 2038

How will New Zealand’s ethnic and cultural mix change over the coming decades? In September, Statistics New Zealand released the latest update to its subnational ethnic population projections.

The projections use the 2013 Census as the baseline and are broken into five-year intervals, running up until the year 2038. The projections incorporate the effects of fertility, life expectancy, intermarriage and net migration. Four broad and overlapping ethnic groups are covered: ‘European or Other (Including New Zealander)’, Maori, Asian, and Pacific.

Broadly, the projections show Maori, Asian and Pacific populations increasing their share of the population in all regions, most territorial authority (TA) areas and most Auckland local board areas. Those identifying with 'European or Other (including New Zealander)' ethnicities will represent a decreasing share of people in all regions and most TAs. However, this population is still projected to increase in number between 2013 and 2038 in 11 of New Zealand’s 16 regions and 37 of New Zealand’s 67 TAs.

Auckland continues to dominate New Zealand’s demographic landscape. Under mid-range projections, Auckland will account for three-fifths of New Zealand’s population growth between 2013 and 2038, and, as now, two-thirds of New Zealand’s Asian population will live there.

In 2038, one in three Aucklanders are likely to identify with an Asian ethnicity (up from one in four in 2013) and around 18 per cent are likely to identify with Pacific Island ethnicity (up from 15 per cent in 2013). By contrast, the ‘European or Other’ share of Auckland’s population is projected to fall from 2013’s 59 per cent to 46 per cent in 2038.

Nationally, the Maori population will make up nearly 20 per cent of the population in 2038 (up from nearly 16 per cent in 2013); the Asian population will make up 21 per cent of the population (up from 12 percent in 2013); the Pacific population will make up 11 percent of the population (up from 8 per cent in 2013); and the ‘European or Other’ population will make up 66 per cent of the population (down from 75 per cent in 2013).

What is driving these patterns of growth? The younger age profiles of the Maori, Asian and Pacific populations are a factor, as are higher rates of natural increase (births minus deaths) in the Maori and Pacific populations.

Net migration is largely driving the increase in the Asian population, with the medium projection assuming a net inflow of 360,000 migrants nationally over the 25-year period.

Some of the most interesting changes are occurring at the regional council level. The percentage of the population identifying itself as Pacific Island will rise by five percentage points in Hawke's Bay up to 10 percent in 2038, by five percentage points in Northland up to eight per cent in 2038 and by five percentage points in Gisborne to nine percent in 2038.

The percentage of the population identifying itself as Asian will rise by eight percentage points in Wellington up to 19 per cent in 2038, by seven percentage points in the Bay of Plenty up to 12 per cent in 2038, and in Nelson by seven percentage points up to 12 per cent in 2038.

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