Māori: Demographics for Economic Return

Appendix A: Fertility and Family Formation

Sitting behind the demographic disparities discussed in this paper are significant differences in the timing and magnitude of fertility transition. In 2009 the Total Fertility Rate (TFR) for Māori was 2.8. Figure A1 indicates that this was a little higher than experienced across the past decade, particularly when compared with a trough in 2002 (TFR 2.5), but also a little lower than in 2008 when the TFR rose briefly to 2.95. All recent rates are substantially lower than in the 1960s when the Māori fertility transition began in 1964.7 Between 1973 and 1978 the TFR for Māori fell from 5.0 to 2.8, making it one of the world’s most rapid reproductive revolutions’ (Pool 1991: 170).

The increased birth rates per woman, coupled with an increase in the size of the reproductive age population, have resulted in a sizeable increase in Māori birth numbers, from 14,871 at the trough in 2002, to 18,027 in 2009, an increase of 21%.

Figure A1: Total Fertility Rate, Māori 1962-2007*


These trends must be placed in context alongside those for all New Zealand women, because fertility rates and birth numbers for all New Zealand women similarly experienced a trough in 2002 and then increased, peaking in 2008.8 Nevertheless, over the period 2002-2009, the proportion of births classified as Māori increased from 27.5% of all births, to nearly 29.0% (Table A2). These proportions are somewhat greater than those currently accounted for by young Māori (eg., 21% at 0-14 years as indicated in Table A1 – see text), providing an indication of the future labour market entrant population that will be of Māori origin.

7 It should be noted that the gap in the data series between 1991 and 1995 reflects a change in the way Māori births are classified; accordingly the two trends are not strictly comparable.

8 In 2009 the TFR for the total New Zealand population was 2.14, a little higher than its recent peak which also occurred in 2008 (2.18 births per woman) but substantially higher than a trough which – as for Māori - occurred in 2002 (1.89 births per woman). Birth numbers for total New Zealand have similarly increased, but by a smaller percentage (16 %).

Table A1: Live Births, Māori, Non-Māori and Total 2002-2009

Maori Non- Maori Total % Maori
2002 14,871 39,150 54,021 27.5
2003 15,657 40,477 56,134 27.9
2004 16,259 41,814 58,073 28.0
2005 16,437 41,308 57,745 28.5
2006 17,342 41,851 59,193 29.3
2007 18,717 45,327 64,044 29.2
2008 18,844 45,499 64,343 29.3
2009 18,027 44,516 62,543 28.8

Source: Statistics NZ' Live Births, Total and Maori Quarterly

Of equal importance is the relatively youthful age at which Māori women have their children, and the fact that this pattern has seen relatively little change over the past 15 years. Figure A2 compares age-specific rates for Māori (1996 and 2009) and Total New Zealand (2009) converted to percentage of each age group giving birth. For Māori, the peak age at giving birth has shifted over the period from 23 to 24 years, while that for all women has shifted from 29 to 31 years (data for 1996 not shown). By 2009, the proportion of Māori women giving birth at age 24 was twice that of all women (16.9 and 8.8% respectively). The pattern of an older age at childbearing for total New Zealand is very similar to that for all oECD countries, albeit New Zealand tends to have one of the youngest ages overall. However the small drop at age 20-23 years for Māori alongside general increases at 30+ years could also be indicating a shift to a slightly older pattern of childbearing.

Figure A2: Age-Specific Fertility (Percentage at each age), Māori and Total


If Māori childbearing is shifting to slightly older ages it would have many positive implications for young Māori women, as participation rates are always much lower for women with children than without. Additional time in the labour force, or alternatively in higher education before having children, is universally correlated with increased skills and income. A shift to older ages would also potentially see the fertility rate and birth numbers drop, contributing to the demographic dividend. However over the longer term, the still substantially higher fertility rates of today’s young Māori women would mean – for them - a longer relative period spent supporting children and a concomitant shortening of the potential second demographic dividend.

Life Expectancy

Trends in life expectancy are similarly correlated with the onset of the first and second demographic dividends. Figure A3 shows that life expectancy for Māori has increased substantially over the period 1950-2007, that for males increasing by 30.4% and for females by 34.3% (by comparison with 16.1% for all males and 15.3 % for all females). Despite these relative improvements, Māori life expectancy in 2005-07 remained lower than that for the total population by 7.6 years for males and 7.1 years for females (9.6 and 8.6% respectively).

Figure A3: Life Expectancy 1950-2007, Māori and Total, By Sex


At the same time, the gains have been experienced at all ages, and more or less monotonically. Survivorship data for example shows that the proportion of Māori remaining alive at each age has in almost all cases increased for each successive age at each successive observation (Figure A4). In 1950, only 52.5% of Māori males born that year could expect to reach age 60, while by 2005-07 that had increased to 79.5% (Statistics New Zealand 2009: Table 4.14). For females the equivalent proportions were 53.0% in 1950 and 86.7% in 2005-07. These proportions are still lower than for the total population, but the increases are significantly greater - in large part because survivorship to age 60 for the total population already approaches the maximum, 90% for males and 93% for females (Statistics New Zealand 2009: Table 4.13).

Table A2 shows that the gains in Māori survivorship at each age (since 1950) are now becoming pronounced at the older ages. At age 10, for example, the proportion surviving has increased by 10.6 percentage points for males and 9.3 percentage points for females. These are relatively low gains compared with those at older ages because 98.9% of Māori male children and 99.1 % of Māori female children already survive to these ages (up from 88.3 and 89.8% in 1950). By comparison the increases at age 60 are 27.0 and 33.7 percentage points for males and females respectively, and at age 65, even greater, 28.9 and 36.7%. Table A2 also shows that there is still much (relative) improvement to look forward to, because while the gains reach their maximum at age 65 for Māori (males and female alike), they do not peak for all males until age 80, and for all females until age 85.

Figure A4: proportion of each age group surviving 1950-2007, Māori Males and Females


In absolute terms then, the gains portend well for the future Māori economy, with the potential for more people living and working longer, and thereby for a potentially strong second demographic dividend when that period is reached.

Table A2: Percentage Point change in the proportion of each age group surviving to each age, 1950-2007

Māori Total NZ
Males Females Males Females
0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0
1 7.2 6.4 2.5 2.1
5 9.7 8.6 3.2 2.6
10 10.6 9.3 3.5 2.8
15 11.2 10.1 3.8 3.0
20 12.2 11.2 4.1 3.2
25 13.6 12.8 4.5 3.5
30 15.1 14.5 4.8 3.9
35 16.7 16.0 5.3 4.3
40 18.4 18.2 5.9 4.8
45 20.0 21.1 6.6 5.6
50 21.8 25.3 7.9 6.9
55 24.6 29.5 10.1 8.7
60 27.0 33.7 13.6 11.2
65 28.9 36.7 18.1 14.7
70 28.7 36.7 23.3 19.1
75 25.8 33.5 27.5 24.7
80 20.1 28.1 28.9 30.4
85 12.1 20.1 24.6 31.3
90 5.1 11.1 14.3 23.3

Source: Calculated from Statistics New Zealand Demographic Trends 2009: Tables 4.13 and 4.14

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