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Thursday, December 15, 2005

Population projections

2005 to 2031

Canada's population is ageing fast and senior citizens would outnumber children in about a decade, according to new population projections.

In all growth scenarios considered for this study, seniors aged 65 and over would become more numerous than children aged less than 15 around the year 2015. This would be an unprecedented situation in Canada.

By 2031, the number of people aged 65 and over would range between 8.9 million and 9.4 million, depending on the scenario selected, while the number of children would range between 4.8 million and 6.6 million.

In 2005, Canada's population is younger than the populations of most of the G8 countries. However, it is expected to age more rapidly in the coming years as a direct result of the pronounced baby boom following the Second World War and the rapid decline in fertility that followed.

The aging of the baby boomers will combine with continuing low fertility levels and increasing longevity to age the population rapidly. The arrival of baby boomers at age 65 also has implications for the work force during the coming decades.

Population aging will accelerate as baby boomers reach 65

Like the decline in natural increase, the ageing of the Canadian population is inevitable, since it is largely already inherent in the age structure of the current population.

The projections show that population ageing, which has already begun, would accelerate in 2011 when the first baby-boom cohort (born in 1946) reaches the age of 65. This rapid ageing is projected to last until 2031, when seniors would account for between 23% and 25% of the total population. This would be almost double their current proportion of 13%.

Their share would continue to grow following 2031, but at a slower pace, and by 2056, it would range between 25% and 30%.

Note to readers

This release presents Statistics Canada's new population projections by age and sex for Canada, the provinces and territories. These projections use the most recent population estimates for July 1, 2005, as starting point. The projections take into account emerging trends in the components of population growth, to project the population up to the year 2031 for the provinces and territories and up to 2056 for Canada.

This release presents the main results of six projections representing three growth scenarios at the national level: high, medium and low. The medium growth scenario assumes a continuation in the most recent trends in fertility, mortality and immigration. It is bracketed by high and low growth scenarios, in which fertility, mortality and immigration levels are higher or lower as the case may be. Four internal migration patterns are associated to the medium growth scenario and provide different results at the provincial and territorial level. Other scenarios are also available on CANSIM.

It should be stressed that these projections are not predictions. Rather, they represent an attempt to establish plausible long-term scenarios based on assumptions of fertility, life expectancy and migration, which are subject to varying degrees of uncertainty.

In every projection scenario, the median age of Canada's population would continue to rise. The current median age of the population is 39, that is, half the population is older and half younger. By 2031, it would reach between 43 and 46. In 2056, it would be between 45 and 50.

In addition, the proportion of older seniors, people aged 80 years and over, would increase sharply in every projection scenario. By 2056, an estimated 1 out of 10 Canadians would be 80 years or over, compared with around 1 in 30 in 2005.

If immigration level is an important factor of future population growth, immigration alone cannot reverse this ageing trend.

Proportion of working age population is projected to decline

In every projection scenario, the proportion of the working-age population, that is the population aged 15 to 64, would decline steadily in the 2010s and 2020s. Currently, the working-age population represents 70% of the total population. By the beginning of the 2030s, it would decline to 62%, then level off at about 60%.

Also, in every projection scenario, the demographic dependency ratio would increase rapidly until 2031. This ratio indicates the number of children aged less than 15 years and the number of seniors 65 and over for every 100 working-age people.

In 2005, for every 100 working-age people, there were 44 children and seniors. According to the medium growth scenario, this ratio is estimated to grow to about 61 by 2031.

However, in absolute number, the growth in the working-age population depends on the scenario. In the medium-growth scenario, the working-age population would grow more and more slowly until 2020, remain steady for a decade, and then resume growing.

Under the low-growth scenario, it would start decreasing in 2017, while under the high-growth scenario, it would increase continuously through the projection period.

Population could hit 40 million by late 2030s

Canada's population could exceed 40 million by the late 2030s under the medium-growth scenario. In this scenario, the population would be 39 million in 2031 and around 42.5 million by 2056.

In five of the six projection scenarios, population growth would continue through 2056, but would gradually slow down. Only the low-growth scenario projects a decline in Canada's population, beginning in 2040.

Under the medium-growth scenario, Canada would continue to have, until 2056, a higher rate of population growth than what G8 countries such as Germany, Russia, Italy and Japan currently show.

In all the scenarios considered, natural increase would eventually become negative, that is, there would be more deaths than births. This would occur in 2020 under the low-growth scenario, in 2030 under the medium-growth scenario, and in 2046 under the high-growth scenario. As a result, international net migration would become the country's only source of population growth.

Immigration levels contribute heavily to the projected population growth at the national level, as the fertility rate is assumed to remain below the replacement level in all scenarios, a situation observed since the 1970s.

Major differences in provincial population growth

According to these new projections, Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia are the only provinces in which more than one scenario projects that average annual growth would exceed the growth rate for Canada as a whole. As a result, under these scenarios, these provinces would see an increase in their population share between now and 2031.

The projections also show that three provinces (Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick and Saskatchewan) could have a smaller population by 2031 than their estimated population in 2005. However, this would only be the case under certain scenarios.

These differences results from the cumulative long-term effects of fertility, immigration and interprovincial migration, which would vary widely from province to province.

As for population growth, population ageing will also differ by province. In almost every scenario, the Atlantic provinces would continue to present the highest median ages in Canada in 2031, while the three territories would have the youngest populations.

Between those two extremes, the median age would be higher than the national average in Quebec and British Columbia and lower in Ontario and the Prairies.

Definitions, data sources and methods: survey number 3602.

The publication Population Projections for Canada, Provinces and Territories, 2005 to 2031 (91-520-XIE, $30) is now available online.

For further information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, Alain Bélanger (613-951-2326;, Demography Division.

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Date Modified: 2005-12-15 Important Notices