May 29, 2012 – The 2011 Census results on age and sex were released confirming that Canada’s population is aging, but we’re having more kids too. Although Canada is aging, our population is fairly young compared to other countries, due largely to unexpectedly high rates of birth in the past few years.
Emerging Trends in Canadian Demographics
We’ve known for years that Canada’s population is aging. But, seniors aged 65 and over reached a record high, accounting for 14.8% percent of the Canadian population in 2011, amounting to nearly 5 million Canadians. Among the different age groups, the 60-64 year old group experienced the fastest rate of growth since the 2006 census, at 29.1%. To put it into context, this rate of growth was more than double the Canadian population as a whole, which experienced a 5.9% increase, from approximately 31.6 million in 2006 to approximately 33.5 in 2011.
Canada’s growth rate of seniors is high, but we are not alone. All G8 countries except Russia experienced an increase in the proportion of seniors between 2006 and 2011. Additionally, Canada had the lowest proportion of seniors among the G8 in 2011, except for the United States and Russia.
More Kids and Older Workers
Despite much fear mongering about the growth in the senior population, the working-age population remained unchanged between 2006 and 2011 at 68.5% of the Canadian population, which is higher than any other G8 country in 2011 with the exception of Russia. Looking more closely, the data also showed that for the first time people aged 55-64, who typically leave the labour force, outnumber those aged 15-64, who typically enter the labour force.
One of the most surprising results was that the population of children aged 4 and under increased 11% between 2006 and 2011. It was the highest growth rate seen in 50 years, due in large part to the adult offspring of Baby Boomers having children of their own for the first time.
Large differences in the age structure of populations were found between the provinces and territories. The proportion of seniors was found to be the highest in the Atlantic Provinces, Quebec, and British Columbia, where seven of the ten municipalities with the highest proportion of seniors were in British Columbia. In contrast, Alberta had the highest proportion of non-seniors, specifically people aged 15-64.
What Does it All Mean?
Yes, we’re getting older, but there is no reason to panic. Not only are we younger in comparison, but Canadians are also working longer than our counterparts in other OECD countries, and children are being born at higher rates than we’ve seen in the past 50 years.
Although it is projected that the working-age population will decrease in coming years, older Canadians are healthier and working longer than previous generations of Canadians. The census shows that the growth rate of children has been the fastest growing demographic next to seniors.
These demographic trends affirm much of CARP’s recent advocacy. Certainly, Canadian governments should act now to prepare for our ageing population, particularly on issues of healthcare, elder abuse, and retirement security. But, there is no need to panic, hastily cut-away social services, and instigate generational conflicts, as has recently been the trend.