New Zealand’s birthrate dropped to its lowest ever level in 2020, well below the population replacement rate of 2.1. The country’s declining birthrate is in line with trends seen in Australia, Canada, United Kingdom, Japan and the US, among others.
The country’s total fertility rate dropped to 1.61 births per woman of child-bearing age (15–49 years), the latest fall in a decade-old trend.
Most babies registered in 2020 were conceived before New Zealand moved to Covid-19 lockdown on 25 March last year, said Hamish Slack at Statistics NZ.
“Fertility rates in New Zealand were relatively stable between 1980 and 2012, but have generally decreased since then,” said Slack. “Since 2013, the number of women of reproductive age has increased by 11% and the number of births has decreased by 2%.”
In 2020, there were 57,753 live births registered in New Zealand, down 2,064 (3%) from the previous year.
Demographer Prof Paul Spoonley from Massey University forecasts for the next 20 years indicated many families would have either one child or be childless.
He said “The results of the demographic transition which we’re going through now is something we’ve never encountered before,” he said. “We’ve never had a society in which one in four people is aged over 65, for example. It is unprecedented.”