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Appendix 1

Changing demographics for those aged 25-34 in New Zealand

In New Zealand in all age groups under 20 there have traditionally been more men than women. However, in prime working-age groups the Census shows a growing imbalance between the number of men and the number of women. For example, in 1981 there were 1% more women in the 25-29 age group; by 1991 this had risen to 5% and to 9% more women in 2001 (Appendix Table 1). In the 30-34 age group, the rise has been from an even balance in 1981, to 4% more women in 1991 and 11% more women in 2001. This imbalance is even more pronounced amongst those with higher levels of formal education. For example, in 2001 in the 25-29 age group there were 21% more women than men with a tertiary qualification, and 4% in the 30-34 age group before finally reversing in the 35-39 age group. This imbalance becomes even more extreme amongst those with degrees. For instance, in the 25-29 age group there were 36% more such qualified women than men.

Appendix Table 1 – Ratio of women to men in prime working age groups
  1976 1981 1986 1991 1996 2001
20-24 0.97 0.96 0.98 0.99 1.02 1.02
25-29 0.98 1.01 1.01 1.05 1.06 1.09
30-34 0.98 1.00 1.02 1.04 1.06 1.11
35-39 0.97 1.00 1.00 1.02 1.05 1.08
40-44 0.96 0.99 0.99 1.01 1.03 1.06
45-49 0.94 0.96 0.99 0.99 1.01 1.04
50-54 0.99 0.95 0.97 1.00 1.00 1.02

Source: The Census.

When international comparisons are made, New Zealand stands out as having the highest imbalance of women to men in the OECD in the prime working and couple-forming age groups. The reasons for this imbalance in New Zealand are as yet unknown, but gendered migration must be a key factor.

The base numbers alone provide an indication as to why patterns of female employment could be more important than in the past. There are now more women than men in New Zealand: 53,000 more in the 20-49 age group if 2001 Census data are used, or nearly 36,000 if 2004 population estimates are used. But the “excess of women” becomes even stronger when younger age groups are considered and university-type qualifications are measured. Appendix Figure 1 shows the actual numbers of well-qualified women and men in each age group in 2001.In 2001, there were 46,686 women in the 25-34 age group with a degree or higher qualification but only 37,059 men with a similar qualification. Again this may reflect gendered migration patterns but, in addition, in recent years participation rates of women in tertiary education have been higher for women than for men.

Appendix Figure 1 – Actual number of women and men with a bachelors degree or higher, 2001
Appendix Figure 1 – Actual number of women and men with a bachelors degree or higher, 2001.

The changes may affect marriage markets, labour markets and patterns of unpaid work in New Zealand. For example, well-educated women are more likely to be employed. The excess of well-educated women also means that when they do form couples, more of them are “marrying down” educationally than in the past. This may change the comparative advantage in the home relative to decisions about paid and unpaid work. It may also be that more educated women remain single and potentially childless than in the past. But if they do have children, whether in a couple situation or living alone, well-educated women are also more likely to have more liberal views about out-of-home childcare and the professionalisation of housework.

Yet, when considering basic demographic change it is worth noting that overall women in the 25-34 age group will become a less important group as the population ages (Appendix Figure 2). If there are to be on-going labour shortages, then finding ways for increasing employment rates of older workers will become more important. It is also worth keeping in mind that the women aged 25-34 in 2001, will be in the 55-64 age group in 2031. This group is likely to be under more pressure to be employed across their whole lifecycle than previous cohorts.

Appendix Figure 2 – Historical and projected numbers of women aged 25-34 and women and men aged 55-64, % of total age group 20-64, 1986 to 2025
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