NZ families today: Families Commission brings facts to light

Published: Wed 8 Aug 2012 02:29 PM
New Zealand families today – Families Commission brings facts to light
The Families Commission has produced a summary of key facts about New Zealand families which reveals significant changes in our social fabric.
New Zealand families today: a brief demographic profile was presented in Wellington today by the Commission’s Chief Research Analyst, Dr Jeremy Robertson.
Dr Robertson says, “This range of family statistics reveals some interesting trends over recent decades. For example, there has been a decrease in the rate of marriage. When people do marry they are generally older and have usually spent time living together prior to the marriage.”
“The facts also correct some common misconceptions. For example, despite the belief that divorce is on the rise, there has actually been a recent fall in divorce rates, with the rate declining since 2003.”
He says, “With the increasing age of the population we are seeing a reduction in the proportion of households with children. Couple-only and one person households appear to be the fastest growing household type.”
More children are living with one parent. In 1976 10% of children were living with one parent, but by 2006 the figure was 28%. It is estimated that over a third of children will have lived in a sole parent family by the time they reach the age of 17.
Dr Robertson says. “Our household composition is changing and our experiences of family life are changing. Past patterns of family formation and child bearing have changed, with a wider diversity of pathways into family relationships. Children are also experiencing a greater range of living situations than the past.”
“These kinds of changes have implications for business, social policy, family services and local government” he says. It’s important to know what’s really happening in families today so we can provide the education, health and other social services that families, whānau and their children really need to prosper.”
He says, “Quality knowledge about families can help us make good decisions in planning for the future needs of all New Zealanders.”
Dr Robertson says, “This will be useful for the public, the media and organisations with an interest in families. We’ve aimed to provide an accessible summary so everyone is able to refer to the same data.”
“Debate about families is healthy, but the Families Commission wants to make sure it’s informed by facts. To expand our evidence base, the Families Commission also intends to publish a Status of Families report with indicators and analysis of family wellbeing.”
New Zealand families today is available on the Families Commission website
Key findings:
• Over the past 20 years couple-only and one person households have become more common.
• The rate of growth in the proportion of households headed by a sole parent may be levelling off.
• An estimated third of children will have lived in a sole parent family for a period of time by age 17.
• In 2006 57% of all adults aged 16 and over were living with a partner. The majority of these were married (76%), however a growing proportion of New Zealanders now live together without formally legalising their relationship.
• Since the early 1970s there has been an almost uninterrupted decline in the general mariage rate.
• Evidence that some people are delaying marriage is seen in the increasing median age of those who marry. The median age of women who married for the first time has risen from 20.8 years in 1971 to 28.2 years in 2010. The median age for men marrying for the first time has increased by about 7 years.
• Divorce rates have increased until recently (there has been a drop-off since the mid 2000s). The proportion of people who marry for a second time has increased.
• The median age for women giving birth is now 30 years, compared with 26 years in the early 1960s and just under 25 years in the early 1970s. Fewer New Zealand women in their teens are having a child compared with the 1960s.
• The proportion of ex-nuptial births is now nearly 50%.
• Between 1991 and 2012 the proportion of women holding a post-school qualification increased from 32% to 50%. The gender gap has been steadily closing – from 12 percentage points in 1991 to 3 percentage points in 2012.
• The average weekly hours spent by children in licensed ECE settings has increased from 13.3 hours in 2000 to 20.4 hours in 2011.
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The Families Commission is a centre of excellence for knowledge about family and whānau in New Zealand.
It generates and analyses knowledge about families and whānau to inform and influence policy development, programme management and family service delivery.
Through independent and impartial research and evaluation, the Families Commission has built an authoritative and robust knowledge base about issues relating to family and whānau.
Subject specialists are widely knowledgeable about family and whānau and are available for comment on key family issues.
An autonomous Crown entity, the Commission was established in 2004 under the Families Commission Act 2003.

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