The baby boom was a period of significantly increased and relatively high fertility, which occurred in New Zealand between the mid-1940s and the early 1970s.
The large numbers of baby boomers (born 1946-1964) were due to the high birth rates which New Zealand along with Australia, Canada and United States experienced during the two decades immediately following World War II.
New Zealand, however, was quite exceptional in the size of its boom relative to these other countries which, of course, now means that the demographic and fiscal challenges our country faces as the baby boomers reach old age, are somewhat larger as well.
They are important demographically because of their numbers, and the distinctive bulge, which this cohort of people represent in the New Zealand population.
Demographers describe this as ''a pig in a python,” or a massive protuberance in an otherwise slender age distribution, gradually sliding down the age distribution as boomers get older. As the snout of the pig approaches the python's nether regions, it poses a big problem. One that is only growing.
From the 2018 Census, Statistics New Zealand estimated those 65+ years made up 15% of the population, and projected growth to 21% of the population by 2028. A New Zealand based economics commentator Diana Clement (2021) pointed out that ‘with people living longer we could soon see three generations in one family in retirement all at the same time: aged at 65, 85, and 105 years respectively.’
The swelling of the retired population brings into focus what’s known as ‘the dependency ratio’, this means how many workers the country has for every person not in the workforce. As the baby boomer population ages those not in the workforce will increasingly be retirees. In 2021 that ratio was around 4.4 people working for every retiree, whereas by 2058 the dependency ratio is predicted to be 2.8 workers for every retiree. (Peter Cordtz, Acting Retirement Commissioner, 2021).
In New Zealand, in 2022 the population aged 65+ was estimated to be 842,000 people. The number of people aged 65+ years is increasing by about 80 people per day. The number of 65+ year olds is projected to reach 1 million by 2028, 1.3 million by 2040, and 1.5 million by 2050. (Statistics New Zealand, 2022).
Consequently the proportions of the total population 85+ are also rapidly increasing; in 2022 it was estimated 1 in 50 of New Zealand’s total population were 85+ years, this is projected to increase to 1 in 30 during the 2030’s, and further increase during the 2040’s to about 1 in 20. (Statistics New Zealand, 2022).
There are concerns New Zealand may not have the staff or the infrastructure to meet the variety of demands of a disproportionately large ageing population.
For example, those involved with the age care sector warn the Baby Boomers have arrived and are still coming. Putting extra stress on a sector that has already reached crisis point.