THE NEW NEW ZEALAND: Facing Demographic Disruption.

AuthorButcher, Andrew

THE NEW NEW ZEALAND: Facing Demographic Disruption

Author: Paul Spoonley

Published by: Massey University Press, Palmerston North, 2020, 288pp, $39.99.

Writing, let alone reading, a book about demographic disruption in a year characterised by the massive disruption of Covid-19 might seem a little like an exercise in adding misery to woe. And while this book, by Massey University's Paul Spoonley, was mostly written prior in 2019 while he was on sabbatical in Germany, much of it had to be amended quickly as the publishing date coincided with the emergence of the coronavirus in 2020. In its way, the book is even better for that. The themes of the book noted below take on a different perspective, greater urgency even, in the light of the further pressure that they will be placed under because of the impacts of Covid-19.

Spoonley is one of New Zealand's most distinguished sociologists, with a remarkably prolific publishing record, including on migration and race relations. Here he writes about demography even though, he admits 'I'm really not a demographer'. But there are multiple links between sociology and demography and the former can often bring a wider lens that is occasionally missing in the latter.

Massey University Press books are always spectacularly well designed and this one is no exception. The front page is a paragraph of galvanising text, which says, in part 'In 2030 there may be six million of us ... We will be clustered in Auckland, dependent on migration' and then in the red ink characteristically used by accountants 'We hadn't planned for this. We need to.' If that does not make you want to open the book, then nothing will.

This book is divided into twelve chapters: the first ten are theme-specific and scene-setting; the last two are the 'call to arms'. Chapters One and Two detail demography for the uninitiated--hatches, matches, dispatches and departures, if you like--and that is no bad thing. Demography can often be more of a science than an art, heavily reliant as it is on numbers, data, spreadsheets and tables. All feature in this book, but there is a good story in here too, powerful narrative, the sociologist's art bending the demographer's science to his will.

In order, the rest of the chapters are on: 'modern families', a very powerful rendering of the changing nature of what 'family' is and why it matters; fertility; immigration (the topic on which Spoonley has made his name and so is the strongest); the New Zealand...

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