Canada Year Book


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    Children and youth

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    The proportion of the population aged 24 and younger has been steadily declining over the past four decades. From 1971 to 2010, the share of young people in Canada declined from 48.1% to 29.9% of the population.

    On July 1, 2010, there were an estimated 10.2 million children and young people in Canada. Of those, 5.6 million were children aged 14 and younger, 2.2 million were adolescents aged 15 to 19 and 2.4 million were young adults aged 20 to 24.

    Children accounted for 16.5% of the population in 2010. In 1971, close to 1 in 3 Canadians (29.3%) were children. It is projected that between 2015 and 2021, the proportion of children will be surpassed by the proportion of seniors aged 65 and older for the first time in Canada's history.

    Fewer children in eastern Canada

    Two provinces—Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia—had the lowest proportion of children in the country, at 14.8%. Fertility in those provinces was also among the lowest in Canada. In Quebec, British Columbia and the Atlantic provinces, the proportion of children was lower than the national average of 16.5%. Among the provinces, Alberta (18.3%), Manitoba (18.8%) and Saskatchewan (18.9%) had the highest proportion of children. In Ontario, the proportion of children was close to the national average at 16.7%.

    In the Atlantic provinces, with the exception of Prince Edward Island, the proportion of seniors surpassed the proportion of children, something not projected to happen at the national level for 5 to 10 years. The Atlantic provinces have some of the lowest fertility rates in Canada and until recently were faced with an out-migration of young adults.

    In Nunavut, more than 3 out of 10 people (31.5%) are children, the highest proportion of children in the entire country in 2010. The Northwest Territories (21.8%) and Yukon (17.2%) also have a high share of children. The territories are characterized by higher fertility than elsewhere in the country.

    Fewer school-age children in low-income situations

    The share of the school-age population (aged 5 to 24) living in low-income situations has fallen in recent years: 11% did so in 2007, down from 15% in 2003 and down from 19% during the recession of the early 1990s.

    Historically, children of single-parent families have been more likely to live in low-income situations. In 2007, 1.6 million of the school-age population lived in single-parent families. These children, adolescents and young adults were almost three times more likely to live in low-income situations than their counterparts living in two-parent families (17% vs 6%). In addition, 27% of children from lone-parent families lived in low-income situations for longer than one year, whereas 11% of children from two-parent families did so.

    In all provinces, children from lone-parent families were more likely to live in low income than those from two-parent families. Children from lone-parent families also faced a greater variation in low-income rates (from 9% in Prince Edward Island to 26% in British Columbia) than children living with two parents (from 1% to 7% across the provinces).

    Less active children

    Childhood obesity and inactivity have been at the forefront of child health concerns for several years. Since 1981, the strength and flexibility of boys and girls has declined significantly, while rates of childhood obesity and overweightness have risen.

    In 2007/2009, a higher percentage of boys and girls aged 15 to 19 were in the 'needs improvement' category for flexibility and muscular strength compared with 1981. In addition, the percentage of youth in the high-risk waist circumference category more than tripled for both sexes. Among boys aged 15 to 19, the proportion classified as overweight or obese rose from 14% to 31%. Among girls, it increased from 14% to 25%.

    At age 12, children are now taller and heavier than in 1981, and their body composition is less healthy. In 2007/2009, a 12-year-old boy was, on average, about 5 cm taller than his 1981 counterpart and weighed 6.4 kg more. His waist circumference was 1.3 cm larger, and his body mass index (BMI) had risen by 1.1 kg/m2.

    A typical 12-year-old girl was 2.8 cm taller than her 1981 counterpart, and she weighed 4.9 kg more. Her waist circumference was 5.6 cm larger and her BMI had increased by 1.1 kg/m2.

    Chart 5.1 Population by age group, observed (1971 to 2010) and projected (2011 to 2061)
    View data source for chart 5.1

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