Change is all around us

17:04, Jul 23 2014
Commuters, crowd, Wellington, New Zealand
FACES: New Zealand's ethnic mix is changing.

We've changed so much, we're unrecognisable from the No 8-wire society of decades past.

New Zealand in 2014 has more immigrants, fewer smokers, more children born out of wedlock, and more lecture halls filled with university students.

Internationally we're not alone in facing rapid change, but domestically globalisation has created stresses between those connected with world trends, and those lagging behind.

Data compiled by the think-tank The New Zealand Initiative and published today in the book New Zealand By Numbers, shows the social landscape has changed on a par with other Western countries, University of Canterbury sociologist Michael Grimshaw said.

Commenting on the book, he said New Zealand was part of the "global everywhere" created by the internet and mass media, after reforms of our Governments in the 1980s brought us "kicking and screaming" into the late 20th century and opened the country up to globalisation.

But New Zealand had different immigration questions to answer than our international counterparts, including how to deal with what was a bicultural society in light of the rising Asian population, he said.


The statistics presented in the book show that 25 per cent of those who responded to the 2013 census were born overseas.

Between 2006 and 2013, Asian-born residents outnumbered those born in Britain and Ireland for the first time.

The traditional Maori-Pakeha bicultural New Zealand society and Treaty of Waitangi agreements between Maori and the Crown would be affected by the influx of another culture which did not traditionally identify with the Crown and its obligations, Grimshaw said.

The change in New Zealand's ethnic makeup was due to a variety of factors, including immigration legislation and also the desirability of the country as a place for immigrants to live.

The rapid increase in immigration over the last 25 years had also led to a rising middle class, as it was difficult for the poor to migrate to New Zealand.

The ageing population indicated by official figures was something that was occurring internationally, and was attributable to the post-war baby boom that had not continued into the later years of the 20th century, Grimshaw said.

The median age of the population had been pushed up because people were living longer, and were not having as many children.

Figures from New Zealand By Numbers also indicated that while people were having fewer children, they were also more frequently having children before marriage. Children born out of wedlock now accounted for nearly 50 per cent of all births.

While the statistics indicated a societal shift in attitude towards unmarried women giving birth, the later age people now got married at could also be a contributing factor, Grimshaw said.

The median age of both brides and grooms had increased since 1935, when women were getting married at an average age of 24, and men at 28. Now, women are getting married at an average age of 30, and men at 32.

That could be attributed to the shift in attitude from the 1930s, when women were largely expected to give up work once they married, and stay at home with the children, which they would have at a younger age.

Now, in line with expectations present in other countries, women were employed in a variety of roles across the workforce, and were marrying and having children later to get ahead in their careers.

Women also represented a high proportion of those enrolled in tertiary education or further learning - seen as essential for getting a good job, Grimshaw said.

Total tertiary education enrolments reached 100,000 in 1975 and now are almost at 450,000.

New Zealand's bad habits were another thing to have changed according to the data compiled.

The percentage of the population that smokes on a daily basis declined steadily between 1983 and 2007, and tobacco consumption, which increased until the 1980s, has also steadily declined.

Now, it was generally people in society who were economically and educationally disadvantaged who smoked, Grimshaw said.

It was the same group who would feel the effects of globalisation in a negative way.

"The middle class benefits from globalisation, but if you're not [middle class] then it comes with a whole host of problems," he said.

There was an increased split domestically between areas that were connected globally and did well, and those that were less connected and struggled.

One of the biggest questions New Zealand will face is what to do with rural areas whose traditional industries have been outsourced.

The problems faced by different classes of society and areas of the country, in the face of modernisation showed there were varying economic and social impacts of globalisation, Grimshaw said.

"In effect, you've got two different countries within the same country."