With an ageing population of baby boomers, worries about pension funds and fretting over health care costs, Canada’s demographic situation has not been a stranger to news headlines.
But, where do children figure into this population picture?
Well, as per the 2011 census, children under the age of 15 now number just over 5,607,000—roughly 17 per cent of the total population of almost 33,477,000 people, but down from 2006. Interestingly, the number of children under the age of five is growing at its highest rate since the 1956-1961 period of the Baby Boom. Children under the age of four represent almost 6 per cent of the population. Between 2006 and 2011, the number of children aged four and younger grew 11 per cent.
Simply put, more babies are being born.
Reasons posited for the increase are varied: some speculate about the growing number of women of child-rearing age, others about the number of young, would-be families settling down out West. Others still point out that women who put off having kids are now choosing to starting to do so. Some Canadians may be having more children just for love of family.
Meanwhile, Statistics Canada further found that 14.8 per cent of the population is aged 65 or older. Though this represents an increase from the previous census in 2006, the proportion is still lower than most G8 countries.
Fertility levels below replacement levels and longer life expectancies have meant that Canada’s population is aging. As of 2009 data, Canada’s fertility rate was about 1.67 births per woman.
The replacement rate (for maintaining a population size) is generally recognized as 2.1 births per woman. As many individuals remain childless or have only one child, some families must have three or more children. Two children does not necessarily maintain a steady population.
Long-time statistics professor, Tom Wonnacott, in an article in the Toronto Star, states that our “baby bust” cannot be sustained. In only a couple of centuries our population would plummet to only seven million. He suggests raising the birthrate—possibly sooner rather than later, at that.
Mr. Wonnacott has suggestions for bringing up the birth rate: income splitting for parents, cuts to post-secondary tuition, and even consideration for personal decision-making (the non-statistical value of having another child).
In spite of below-replacement-level birth rates, population growth in Canada is the highest among its G8 peers, due in part to modest increases in the fertility rate. Fertility is generally higher in Western Canada, with the exception of British Columbia.
Baby Boom fertility levels reached 3.7 births per woman. So, despite increases in the number of under-fives, Canada cannot be said to be experiencing a revival of this demographic phenomenon. But, it has been referred to as a “Baby Bump” (Guelph Mercury).