It seems that love was in the air again this year, with Cupid’s arrow aiming as much for people’s wallets as their hearts. Looking around and seeing all the hopeless romantics and their gestures of love ranging from rose bouquets to axe throwing made me question just what all the hype is about?
Valentine’s Day is a big deal in New Zealand, cementing, strengthening, blossoming, and sometimes breaking relationships. All the sentimentality and romance in the air has seen me dig into just what our spending patterns are like around Valentine’s Day. As the resident singleton in the Infometrics office, this focus on spending patterns made me question just how many Kiwis were in a relationship and who might’ve planned a Valentine’s Day gift.
They say there’s lots of fish in the sea, and at the office’s request, I’ve rounded out this article with a light-hearted attempt at estimating how many single people there might be out there for New Zealand’s single population (including me).
The way to someone’s heart is with a big credit card limit
Although relationships require a lot more than one day of importance a year (or so I’m told), New Zealand still turns it up a notch on Valentine’s Day. Paymark reported last week that florists saw a 378% increase in payments on Valentine’s Day 2019 (14 February) compared to a week earlier (7 February), with Kiwis spending $1.31m on flowers this year!
Valentine’s Day is a big day for retailers, with figures provided to Infometrics by Marketview showing a sustained increase in spending each Valentine’s Day. Over the last six years, spending across the country on 14 February has increased by 9% on average from the same day a week before (see Graph 1).
It also seems that food remains a favourite option to impress one’s sweetheart, with Marketview’s data also showing a 40% increase on eating out on Valentine’s Day 2019. This spending on takeaways (presumably for the budget conscious), bars, cafes, and restaurants was up 11% from Valentine’s Day 2018.
So, Kiwis spend a lot on relationships, well at least on Valentine’s Day. But just what could a successful Valentine’s Day relationship lead to over the long term? And if one is unsuccessful this Valentine’s Day, what are the chances of finding someone next Valentine’s Day to share the joy of maxing out the credit card?
Almost half the population is legally partnered up
Unfortunately, when looking at New Zealand relationships, we’re limited to 2013 Census data so far, and also limited by just how we classify a relationship. 
However, if we assume that the 2013 Census data will show us similar trends in the absence of any new Census data, Graph 2 highlights that 48% of the stated population was currently in a legally registered relationship in 2013.
The South Island was home to some of the highest rates of legally registered relationships in 2013. The Marlborough Region had the highest regional rate, with 57% of the total stated population being in a legally registered relationship, followed by Tasman Region and Southland Region (56% and 54% respectively). Looking even closer, and the south of the South Island has the highest rates by local council (see Graph 3).
Central Otago District took the crown in 2013, with 60% of the population being in a legally registered relationship, higher than the New Zealand average of 48%. Wellington City had a rate of 41%, with the tiny Chatham Islands Territory left with the lowest rate of legally registered relationships, with 38%.
Marriages aren’t necessarily a life milestone
However, formalising a relationship through marriage or civil union isn’t as common as it once was. The general marriage rate has declined to 10.88 marriages per 1,000 people aged 16+in 2017, and actual marriage numbers show a similar dip. In 2017, New Zealand saw just under 20,700 marriages and civil unions, slightly below the long-term average (see Graph 4).
Looking at the data we have available, it’s interesting to note that our shortest month – February – is also the most popular for weddings. Just over 14% of all weddings over the past 18 years (1999-2016, due to data availability) have occurred in February.
Most people are living with a partner
Recognising that not everyone is in a legally registered relationship, I broadened the view of New Zealand ‘relationships’ to look at partnership status in people’s current relationship (at the 2013 Census), which provides a wider view of relationships.
At the 2013 Census, around 60% of New Zealanders were living with their partner, be it as a spouse, a de facto partner, or another partner. This left 40% of the population not living with a partner (see Graph 5).
So how many single people could there be in New Zealand?
Although the relationship data gathered in New Zealand doesn’t cover a whole host of relationships (the classic boyfriend/girlfriend scenario isn’t covered unless you’ve lived together for three years), I’ve had a go at using some of the data to make a light-hearted estimate of how many ‘non-partnered’ people there may be in New Zealand.
This light-hearted modelling applies the share of non-partnered Kiwis in the 2013 Census, by age group, to the current 2018 population. With around 38% of the total population being without a statically recognised partner at the 2013 Census, there could be around 1.49m people in New Zealand currently without a partner. The largest proportion of non-partnered Kiwis is in the 15-24 age bracket, with 83% of this demographic being without a partner. Both the proportion and actual number of non-partnered people generally decreases as age goes on (aside from 65+, where the widowed become a greater share of the non-partnered population).
With apparently plenty of fish in the sea, and with a clear view on what Kiwis normally do for Valentine’s Day, perhaps I should start planning for Valentine’s Day 2020 in earnest.
 Legally registered relationships are broken into currently married or in a civil union, previously in a marriage or civil union, or never been in either a marriage or civil union. Partnership status has a wider definition and includes de-facto relationships, which is generally regarded as living and being in a relationship with someone for three years.
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