Canada is turning grey.
For the first time in history, the percentage of seniors in the population (16.9 per cent) now exceeds the share of children (16.6 per cent), new census data reveals.
The increase in the proportion of seniors between 2011 and 2016—up from 14.8 per cent – is the largest since 1871, Statistics Canada said Wednesday as it took the wraps off the latest information gleaned from the 2016 census.
“This gap will continue to increase in the future, so basically we can say that there is no coming back. It’s long-lasting change,” said Laurent Martel, director of the demography division at Statistics Canada.
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The statistics agency cites two factors for the changing demographics. The baby boomers – those born between 1946 and 1965 – are getting older. As well, increasing life expectancy combined with low fertility rates since the 1970s means seniors are an increasing proportion of Canada’s population.
Martel notes that other baby boomers are approaching retirement – the proportion of people between 55 and 64 reached a record high of 21 per cent in 2016 – meaning that an aging population will be the story of Canada’s population for decades to come.
“We know that other cohorts of boomers will follow in the coming years, meaning that population aging will remain fairly fast until 2031, when the last boomers will reach 65,” Martel said in an interview.
By 2061, these patterns will mean there could mean that Canada has 12 million seniors and fewer than 8 million children.
Still, Canada is the young kid on the block – Canada had a lower proportion of seniors than any other G7 country except the United States.
And the share of people aged 15 to 64 – 23.4 million Canadians, about 66.5 per cent of the total population, down from 68.5 per cent in 2011 – was also higher in Canada than in other countries. That means Canada still has a large working-age population, even though the growth rate in this age bracket between 2011 and 2016 is the lowest recorded between two censuses since 1851.
Because women have a longer life expectancy, the aging population also means that women will make up an increasing proportion of the population. In 2016, women accounted for 50.9 per cent of all Canadians; among those 65 and older, women exceed men by 20 per cent.
On the age front, Ontario held steady with the number of children (16.4 per cent) and seniors (16.7 per cent) roughly matched.
The Prairies and the territories counted the youngest populations across the country, with more children than seniors.
The Atlantic provinces saw the biggest decline in the proportion of people aged 15 to 64 and the largest increase in the proportion of seniors between 2011 and 2016. Almost one in five people there are 65 and older – the highest proportion in the country. Every municipality in Nova Scotia except one had more seniors than children.
In Nunavut, 32 per cent of the population was 14 years and younger and only 3.8 per cent were older than 65.
The country’s metropolitan areas had a high proportion of those aged 15 to 64. Calgary topped the list at 70.2 per cent. The Toronto region had 68.9 per cent.
Data from the 2016 census shows Canada is the fastest growing country in the G7. Here’s a look at some of the census numbers, which show the country’s population is up to 35.15 million as of last year.(The Canadian Press )
Banff, Whistler and Wood Buffalo recorded the highest proportion of those aged 15 to 64, attributed to the leisure, hotel and oil production industries that attract workers.
Lethbridge, Alta., had the largest proportion of people 14 years and younger; Trois-Rivieres, QC, had the largest proportion of those 65 and older.
Kent, B.C. had the highest proportion of men to women – the city is home to two federal penitentiaries.
The changing face of Canadian society has a big impact on taxes and government – more and more Canadians are leaving the work force, drawing a pension, using more health care while at the same time a smaller proportion of people are working and paying income tax.
“Population aging will have impacts everywhere – public transportation, housing needs. As we’re growing older as a society, healthcare, institutions will need to be adjusted,” Martel said.
It has implications for the labour force too, Martel noted. “When you are thinking about renewal of the workforce, knowledge transfer issues, lots of challenges there,” he said.
In 1871, 42 per cent of Canadians were 14 years and younger and 3.6 per cent of the population was older than 65. The average age was 23.4, life expectancy was 40 years and only one-third of Canadians reached the age of 65. Today, the average age is 41, life expectancy is more than 82, and 90 per cent of the population can expect to reach 65 years of age.