Insights on Canadian Society
The labour force in Canada and its regions: Projections to 2036

by Laurent Martel

Release date: March 20, 2019

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Overview of the study

In this study, data from the Demosim microsimulation model are used to assess the labour force participation rate of Canadians in 2036 under various scenarios of population growth and participation rates by age. In addition, the article provides an overview of the ethnocultural characteristics of persons who will be in the labour force in 2036, as well as an overview of regional differences in the characteristics of the labour force that may exist in 2036.

  • According to the reference scenario, the number of Canadians who will be in the Canadian labour force (including persons who are employed or unemployed) is expected to continue to increase, from 19.7 million in 2017 to 22.9 million in 2036.
  • Regardless of the scenario, however, the overall participation rate is expected to decrease mainly because of population aging, from 66% in 2017 to 63% or less in 2036.
  • In 2016, just over 1 in 4 working people (26%) were born outside Canada. By 2036, according to the reference scenario, this proportion could reach 1 in 3 working people (34%). The proportion of people belonging to visible minorities in the labour force is also expected to continue to increase.
  • Labour force growth is expected to remain positive in most Canadian regions, with the possible exceptions of Thunder Bay and Sudbury, and the non-metropolitan regions of Quebec and Atlantic Canada.
  • In 2017, there were four people in the labour force for every person not in the labour force aged 65 and over. By 2036, this ratio could be less than 3 to 1 nationally, and could be less than 2 to 1 in some regions in non-metropolitan areas of Atlantic Canada, Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia; in metropolitan areas of Quebec except Montréal; and in the two metropolitan areas of Sudbury and Thunder Bay.

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Introduction

From 1960 to 2010, the Canadian labour force—which includes persons who are employed or unemployed—grew faster than the population aged 15 and over. As a result, the weight of the labour force in the population aged 15 and over—also known as the overall participation rate— progressively increased during this period, reaching a peak of 68% in 2003 and 2008.

The rapid growth of the labour force over these 50 years was fuelled mainly by the arrival of the larger baby-boom generation (those born between 1946 and 1965) at working ages, and also by the increase in women’s labour force participation and an equally rising level of education among the population.

In recent years, however, the overall Canadian participation rate began to decline, from 68% in 2008 to 66% in 2017. This is due to the fact that the population aged 15 and over is now growing faster than the labour force, although the latter is also still growing, but at a slower pace.

This trend reversal has occurred despite the fact that, since the mid-1990s, there has been a significant increase in labour market participation of people aged 50 and over. For example, the participation rate of people aged 60 to 64 who are close to retirement rose from 43% in 1995 to 61% in 2017 among men, and from 23% to 49% among women during the same period.

Population aging—principally, the aging of the large cohort of people born during the baby boom era—is the dominant factor currently putting downward pressure on the labour force participation rate. These individuals began leaving the workforce a few years ago to retire.Note The last generation of baby boomers will reach the age of 65 in 2031.

Is it therefore inevitable that the overall participation rate will decline in the coming years? Could the size of the labour force decrease in absolute numbers? To what extent are other factors likely to influence future trends, such as immigration and a possible further increase in labour force participation rates among older workers?

The future development of the labour force is important for several reasons. An abundant supply of labour contributes to economic growth and the tax base on which many government programs are based. The number of people in the labour force relative to those who are economically inactive is an important element in the balance of some programs, including public pension plans. Finally, the ethnocultural composition and future age structure of the labour force are also of great interest to employers across the country—for the planning of programs that focus on topics such as knowledge transfer, immigrant integration and employment equity.

It is in this context that Canada’s labour force projections represent a useful planning tool for decision making. After two series of projections released earlier by Statistics Canada (in 2007Note and 2011Note ), this article presents new projections about Canada’s labour force through 2036 using Demosim, a microsimulation population projection model. This article analyzes projected national trends in the size, growth, demographic weight, age structure and ethnocultural composition of the labour force. For the first time, results at the regional level are presented—for 18 major metropolitan and non-metropolitan areas of the country—in order to illustrate the large regional variations that could characterize the country in 2036.

The Demosim model used to produce these projections is described in detail in a methodological report published in 2017 by Statistics Canada.Note The assumptions for the five scenarios developed for these labour force projections are detailed in the Data sources, methods and definitions section and are summarized in Table 1. These scenarios are intended to provide a plausible range for the future evolution of the labour force, and to reflect the uncertainty inherent in any projection exercise.


Table 1
Projection scenarios for Canada’s labour force
Table summary
This table displays the results of Projection scenarios for Canada’s labour force. The information is grouped by Scenarios (appearing as row headers), Labour force (appearing as column headers).
Scenarios Labour force
Population growth assumptions Participation rate assumptions
A - Reference Medium growth Trends from 1995 to 2017
B - Low growth Low growth Trends from 1995 to 2017
C - High growth High growth Trends from 1995 to 2017
D - Constant participation rates Medium growth Constants (2017 levels)
E - Slow growth after age 50 Medium growth 50% growth compared to the reference scenario

The growth of the labour force will slow in the coming years

In terms of absolute numbers, all scenarios indicate that the number of Canadians in the labour force should increase over the next few years (Chart 1). According to the reference scenario, this number could increase from 19.7 million people in the labour force in 2017 to 22.9 million in 2036. Depending on the scenario, the number of people in the labour force could vary from 21.1 million (low-growth scenario) to 24.2 million (high-growth scenario).

Chart 1 Observed (1946 to 2017) and projected (2018 to 2036) number of persons in the  labour force according to five scenarios, Canada

Data table for Chart 1 
Data table for chart 1
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for chart 1. The information is grouped by Year (appearing as row headers), Observed, Projection scenarios, Reference, Low growth, High growth, Constant participation rates and Slow growth after 50 years, calculated using number units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Year Observed Projection scenarios
Reference Low growth High growth Constant participation rates Slow growth after 50 years
number
1946 4,957,000 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1947 4,977,000 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1948 5,024,000 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1949 5,099,000 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1950 5,216,000 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1951 5,300,000 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1952 5,422,000 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1953 5,503,000 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1954 5,607,000 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1955 5,727,000 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1956 5,899,000 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1957 6,126,000 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1958 6,257,000 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1959 6,362,000 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1960 6,530,000 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1961 6,642,000 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1962 6,741,000 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1963 6,871,000 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1964 7,052,000 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1965 7,253,000 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1966 7,526,000 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1967 7,800,000 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1968 8,019,000 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1969 8,259,000 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1970 8,466,000 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1971 8,719,000 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1972 8,975,000 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1973 9,361,000 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1974 9,743,000 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1975 10,095,000 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1976 10,491,300 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1977 10,785,200 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1978 11,154,600 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1979 11,536,700 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1980 11,879,400 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1981 12,235,800 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1982 12,301,800 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1983 12,527,600 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1984 12,747,900 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1985 13,026,100 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1986 13,282,700 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1987 13,526,000 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1988 13,779,100 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1989 14,057,000 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1990 14,244,600 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1991 14,336,300 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1992 14,336,100 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1993 14,435,000 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1994 14,573,700 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1995 14,689,200 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1996 14,848,500 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1997 15,080,600 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1998 15,314,800 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1999 15,583,700 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
2000 15,841,900 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
2001 16,094,100 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
2002 16,560,700 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
2003 16,944,200 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
2004 17,147,100 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
2005 17,292,100 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
2006 17,502,200 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
2007 17,846,500 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
2008 18,122,400 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
2009 18,250,400 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
2010 18,450,500 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
2011 18,619,600 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
2012 18,809,500 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
2013 19,037,800 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
2014 19,124,500 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
2015 19,278,000 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
2016 19,440,500 19,566,000 19,537,000 19,592,000 19,566,000 19,566,000
2017 19,663,000 19,813,000 19,764,000 19,857,000 19,813,000 19,813,000
2018 Note ...: not applicable 19,955,000 19,870,000 20,025,000 19,873,000 19,924,000
2019 Note ...: not applicable 20,143,000 20,016,000 20,244,000 20,025,000 20,091,000
2020 Note ...: not applicable 20,327,000 20,148,000 20,465,000 20,169,000 20,251,000
2021 Note ...: not applicable 20,515,000 20,278,000 20,697,000 20,318,000 20,415,000
2022 Note ...: not applicable 20,667,000 20,361,000 20,900,000 20,431,000 20,544,000
2023 Note ...: not applicable 20,817,000 20,430,000 21,108,000 20,544,000 20,672,000
2024 Note ...: not applicable 20,964,000 20,491,000 21,321,000 20,652,000 20,797,000
2025 Note ...: not applicable 21,119,000 20,556,000 21,541,000 20,770,000 20,930,000
2026 Note ...: not applicable 21,271,000 20,616,000 21,758,000 20,885,000 21,060,000
2027 Note ...: not applicable 21,426,000 20,672,000 21,979,000 21,006,000 21,194,000
2028 Note ...: not applicable 21,571,000 20,716,000 22,194,000 21,122,000 21,321,000
2029 Note ...: not applicable 21,733,000 20,769,000 22,424,000 21,255,000 21,464,000
2030 Note ...: not applicable 21,889,000 20,813,000 22,656,000 21,381,000 21,602,000
2031 Note ...: not applicable 22,047,000 20,858,000 22,893,000 21,512,000 21,743,000
2032 Note ...: not applicable 22,213,000 20,909,000 23,140,000 21,653,000 21,893,000
2033 Note ...: not applicable 22,387,000 20,958,000 23,403,000 21,805,000 22,050,000
2034 Note ...: not applicable 22,557,000 21,006,000 23,666,000 21,954,000 22,206,000
2035 Note ...: not applicable 22,736,000 21,049,000 23,942,000 22,113,000 22,371,000
2036 Note ...: not applicable 22,911,000 21,088,000 24,219,000 22,267,000 22,531,000

Four out of five scenarios, however, suggest that labour force growth could slow in the coming years (Chart 2). Only the high-growth scenario, which assumes a gradual increase in the annual immigration rate to about 1% of Canada’s population by 2022 and stabilization thereafter, suggests that this growth could increase sligthly from its current level (about 0.8% per year). The reference scenario suggests labour force growth that would stabilize at around 0.7% per year in 2021.

Chart 2 Observed (1946 to 2016) and projected (2011 to 2036) average annual changes in the labour force according to five scenarios, Canada

Data table for Chart 2 
Data table for chart 2
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for chart 2. The information is grouped by Period (appearing as row headers), Observed, Reference, Projection scenarios, Low growth, High growth, Constant participation rates and Slow growth after 50 years, calculated using percent units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Period Observed Reference Projection scenarios
Low growth High growth Constant participation rates Slow growth after 50 years
percent
1946 to 1951 1.35 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1951 to 1956 2.16 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1956 to 1961 2.40 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1961 to 1966 2.53 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1966 to 1971 2.99 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1971 to 1976 3.77 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1976 to 1981 3.12 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1981 to 1986 1.66 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1986 to 1991 1.54 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1991 to 1996 0.70 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1996 to 2001 1.62 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
2001 to 2006 1.69 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
2006 to 2011 1.25 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
2011 to 2016 0.87 0.80 0.77 0.82 0.80 0.80
2016 to 2021 Note ...: not applicable 0.95 0.75 1.10 0.76 0.85
2021 to 2026 Note ...: not applicable 0.73 0.33 1.00 0.55 0.62
2026 to 2031 Note ...: not applicable 0.72 0.23 1.02 0.59 0.64
2031 to 2036 Note ...: not applicable 0.77 0.22 1.13 0.69 0.71

The low-growth scenario, which assumes an immigration rate of 0.5% in 2022 and stabilization thereafter, expects labour force growth to reach near zero by 2026. This scenario underlines the importance of immigration. In fact, in the absence of immigration in 2018 and after (first year of projection in the model), Canada’s labour force would begin to contract in 2022 and would fall below 19 million people by 2036 (scenario not presented).

Results obtained based on other scenarios, which have different assumptions about future labour force participation rates by age group—“constant rates,” “trends from 1995 to 2017,” and “50% growth” scenarios—differed little from the reference scenario.

Overall participation rate decreases in all scenarios

Despite having decreased in recent years, Canada’s overall participation rate in 2017 (66%) was the highest among the G7 countries according to data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).Note The United Kingdom (63%), the United States (63%), Germany (61%), Japan (61%), France (56%) and Italy (50%) all had lower rates. The average for OECD countries was 60%.

One of the reasons for Canada’s high rate is its past demographic history: the baby boom phenomenon was particularly strong in Canada during the 1950s and 1960s, and many baby boomers were still in the labour market in 2017.

All projection scenarios indicate that the decrease that began recently could continue in the coming years (Chart 3). By 2036, the overall labour force participation rate could vary from 61%, according to the “constant rate” scenario, to 63%, according to the reference scenario. The reference scenario assumes that the upward trends in participation rates observed among people aged 50 and over will continue.

Chart 3 Observed (1981 to 2017) and projected (2018 to 2036) overall participation rates according to five scenarios, Canada

Data table for Chart 3 
Data table for chart 3
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for chart 3. The information is grouped by Year (appearing as row headers), Observed, Projection scenarios, Reference, Low growth, High growth, Constant participation rates and Slow growth after 50 years, calculated using percent units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Year Observed Projection scenarios
Reference Low growth High growth Constant participation rates Slow growth after 50 years
percent
1976 61.5 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1977 61.9 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1978 62.7 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1979 63.7 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1980 64.3 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1981 65.0 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1982 64.4 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1983 64.7 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1984 65.0 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1985 65.6 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1986 66.1 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1987 66.5 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1988 66.8 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1989 67.3 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1990 67.1 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1991 66.6 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1992 65.7 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1993 65.3 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1994 65.2 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1995 64.8 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1996 64.7 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1997 64.9 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1998 65.1 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1999 65.5 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
2000 65.8 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
2001 65.9 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
2002 66.9 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
2003 67.6 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
2004 67.5 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
2005 67.1 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
2006 67.0 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
2007 67.4 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
2008 67.6 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
2009 67.1 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
2010 66.9 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
2011 66.7 66.3 66.3 66.3 66.3 66.3
2012 66.5 66.3 66.3 66.3 66.3 66.3
2013 66.5 66.3 66.3 66.3 66.3 66.3
2014 66.0 65.8 65.8 65.8 65.8 65.8
2015 65.8 65.7 65.7 65.7 65.7 65.7
2016 65.7 65.6 65.6 65.5 65.6 65.6
2017 65.8 65.7 65.7 65.6 65.7 65.7
2018 Note ...: not applicable 65.5 65.5 65.5 65.2 65.4
2019 Note ...: not applicable 65.5 65.5 65.4 65.1 65.3
2020 Note ...: not applicable 65.4 65.5 65.3 64.9 65.2
2021 Note ...: not applicable 65.4 65.4 65.3 64.8 65.1
2022 Note ...: not applicable 65.2 65.3 65.1 64.5 64.9
2023 Note ...: not applicable 65.1 65.1 64.9 64.2 64.6
2024 Note ...: not applicable 64.9 64.9 64.7 63.9 64.3
2025 Note ...: not applicable 64.7 64.7 64.5 63.6 64.1
2026 Note ...: not applicable 64.5 64.5 64.3 63.4 63.9
2027 Note ...: not applicable 64.4 64.3 64.2 63.1 63.7
2028 Note ...: not applicable 64.2 64.1 64.0 62.8 63.4
2029 Note ...: not applicable 64.0 63.9 63.8 62.6 63.2
2030 Note ...: not applicable 63.9 63.7 63.6 62.4 63.0
2031 Note ...: not applicable 63.7 63.6 63.5 62.2 62.8
2032 Note ...: not applicable 63.6 63.4 63.3 62.0 62.7
2033 Note ...: not applicable 63.5 63.3 63.2 61.8 62.5
2034 Note ...: not applicable 63.4 63.2 63.1 61.7 62.4
2035 Note ...: not applicable 63.3 63.0 63.0 61.5 62.3
2036 Note ...: not applicable 63.2 62.9 62.9 61.4 62.1

The results of scenarios proposing variations in the components of population growth (high- and low-growth scenarios) were very similar to those of the reference scenario. These results suggest that, even though the overall participation rate will decline as a result of population aging, the magnitude of that trend could be more impacted by changes in labour force participation than by changes in the components of population growth (fertility, mortality, migration).

That being said, the ongoing increase in labour force participation rates beyond the age of 50 is not expected to fully offset the effects of the aging of the labour force.

By 2036, Canada could have fewer than three people in the labour force for every person aged 65 and over who is not in the labour force

In the early 1980s, when the vast majority of baby boomers were in the labour market, Canada had six people in the labour force for every person aged 65 and over who was not in the labour force. By 2017, this ratio had declined to four people in the labour force for every person aged 65 and over who was not in the labour force. Under all projection scenarios, this ratio could be less than 3 to 1 in 2036 (Chart 4).

Chart 4 Observed (1976 to 2017) and projected (2018 to 2036) number of persons in the labour force for each person aged 65 and over and not in the labour force according to five scenarios, Canada

Data table for Chart 4 
Data table for chart 4
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for chart 4. The information is grouped by Year (appearing as row headers), Observed, Projection scenarios, Reference, Low growth, High growth, Constant participation rates and Slow growth after 50 years, calculated using ratio units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Year Observed Projection scenarios
Reference Low growth High growth Constant participation rates Slow growth after 50 years
ratio
1976 6.17 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1977 6.10 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1978 6.11 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1979 6.11 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1980 6.07 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1981 6.06 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1982 5.93 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1983 5.87 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1984 5.82 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1985 5.75 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1986 5.64 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1987 5.54 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1988 5.46 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1989 5.40 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1990 5.30 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1991 5.16 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1992 5.03 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1993 4.93 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1994 4.90 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1995 4.81 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1996 4.77 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1997 4.75 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1998 4.74 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1999 4.73 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
2000 4.72 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
2001 4.73 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
2002 4.81 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
2003 4.87 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
2004 4.84 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
2005 4.80 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
2006 4.74 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
2007 4.75 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
2008 4.74 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
2009 4.65 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
2010 4.61 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
2011 4.51 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
2012 4.40 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
2013 4.29 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
2014 4.17 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
2015 4.05 3.97 3.97 3.96 3.97 3.97
2016 3.95 3.87 3.88 3.87 3.87 3.87
2017 3.88 3.82 3.82 3.81 3.82 3.82
2018 Note ...: not applicable 3.74 3.73 3.73 3.70 3.72
2019 Note ...: not applicable 3.68 3.67 3.67 3.62 3.65
2020 Note ...: not applicable 3.61 3.60 3.60 3.54 3.58
2021 Note ...: not applicable 3.55 3.54 3.54 3.46 3.51
2022 Note ...: not applicable 3.48 3.46 3.47 3.37 3.42
2023 Note ...: not applicable 3.40 3.38 3.39 3.28 3.34
2024 Note ...: not applicable 3.33 3.30 3.32 3.20 3.26
2025 Note ...: not applicable 3.26 3.22 3.26 3.12 3.19
2026 Note ...: not applicable 3.19 3.15 3.19 3.04 3.11
2027 Note ...: not applicable 3.13 3.08 3.13 2.96 3.04
2028 Note ...: not applicable 3.06 3.01 3.06 2.89 2.97
2029 Note ...: not applicable 3.01 2.94 3.01 2.83 2.91
2030 Note ...: not applicable 2.96 2.88 2.96 2.77 2.85
2031 Note ...: not applicable 2.91 2.84 2.91 2.72 2.81
2032 Note ...: not applicable 2.88 2.80 2.88 2.68 2.77
2033 Note ...: not applicable 2.86 2.76 2.86 2.65 2.75
2034 Note ...: not applicable 2.83 2.73 2.84 2.62 2.72
2035 Note ...: not applicable 2.81 2.70 2.82 2.60 2.70
2036 Note ...: not applicable 2.79 2.68 2.80 2.58 2.67

All scenarios provided similar results, which suggests that neither an increase nor a decrease in immigration levels, nor further increases in labour force participation rates for people aged 50 and over, could change the projected trend.

In 2036, 1 in 4 people in the labour force could be 55 or over

In 2021, the year in which the last baby boomers will reach the age of 55, 23% of the labour force could be aged 55 or over. This proportion could continue to increase slightly, to 25% in 2036 (Chart 5, reference scenario). The more modest increase in this proportion in the years after 2021 than in years prior is related to the arrival of smaller generations—particularly Generation X (people born from 1966 to 1980)—at these ages.

Chart 5 Observed (1976 to 2017) and projected (2018 to 2036) percentage of people aged 55 and over in the labour force according to five scenarios, Canada

Data table for Chart 5 
Data table for chart 5
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for chart 5. The information is grouped by Year (appearing as row headers), Observed, Projection scenarios, Reference, Low growth, High growth, Constant participation rates and Slow growth after 50 years, calculated using percent units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Year Observed Projection scenarios
Reference Low growth High growth Constant participation rates Slow growth after 50 years
percent
1976 11.3 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1977 11.1 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1978 10.9 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1979 10.9 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1980 10.7 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1981 10.6 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1982 10.6 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1983 10.5 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1984 10.4 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1985 10.3 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1986 10.0 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1987 9.9 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1988 9.8 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1989 9.6 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1990 9.6 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1991 9.5 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1992 9.4 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1993 9.3 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1994 9.5 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1995 9.3 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1996 9.3 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1997 9.5 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1998 9.7 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1999 10.0 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
2000 10.2 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
2001 10.5 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
2002 11.3 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
2003 12.4 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
2004 12.9 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
2005 13.5 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
2006 14.1 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
2007 14.7 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
2008 15.4 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
2009 16.2 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
2010 16.9 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
2011 17.5 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
2012 18.1 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
2013 18.8 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
2014 19.4 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
2015 19.8 19.6 19.6 19.6 19.6 19.6
2016 20.5 20.3 20.3 20.3 20.3 20.3
2017 21.0 20.8 20.8 20.8 20.8 20.8
2018 Note ...: not applicable 21.4 21.5 21.4 21.2 21.3
2019 Note ...: not applicable 22.2 22.2 22.2 21.8 22.0
2020 Note ...: not applicable 22.9 23.0 22.8 22.4 22.6
2021 Note ...: not applicable 23.4 23.6 23.4 22.7 23.1
2022 Note ...: not applicable 23.7 23.9 23.6 22.9 23.3
2023 Note ...: not applicable 23.9 24.2 23.8 22.9 23.4
2024 Note ...: not applicable 24.1 24.4 23.9 22.9 23.5
2025 Note ...: not applicable 24.2 24.6 24.0 22.9 23.6
2026 Note ...: not applicable 24.4 24.8 24.2 22.9 23.7
2027 Note ...: not applicable 24.5 25.0 24.2 22.9 23.7
2028 Note ...: not applicable 24.5 25.1 24.3 22.8 23.7
2029 Note ...: not applicable 24.6 25.2 24.2 22.7 23.7
2030 Note ...: not applicable 24.6 25.3 24.3 22.6 23.7
2031 Note ...: not applicable 24.7 25.4 24.3 22.6 23.7
2032 Note ...: not applicable 24.8 25.6 24.4 22.6 23.8
2033 Note ...: not applicable 24.9 25.7 24.4 22.6 23.8
2034 Note ...: not applicable 25.0 25.9 24.5 22.6 23.9
2035 Note ...: not applicable 25.1 26.1 24.6 22.7 24.0
2036 Note ...: not applicable 25.3 26.3 24.7 22.8 24.1

All labour force scenarios show a strong increase in ethnocultural diversity

In 2016, just over one in four people in the labour force (26%) were born outside Canada (Chart 6). This proportion has been increasing since the mid-1990s because of sustained levels of immigration to Canada.

Chart 6 Observed (1981 to 2016) and projected (2017 to 2036) proportion of the foreign-born population in the labour force according to five scenarios, Canada

Data table for Chart 6 
Data table for chart 6
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for chart 6. The information is grouped by Year (appearing as row headers), Observed, Projection scenarios, Reference, Low growth, High growth, Constant participation rates and Slow growth after 50 years, calculated using percent units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Year Observed Projection scenarios
Reference Low growth High growth Constant participation rates Slow growth after 50 years
percent
1981 19.0 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1982 18.9 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1983 18.8 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1984 18.7 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1985 18.5 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1986 18.4 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1987 18.4 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1988 18.5 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1989 18.5 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1990 18.5 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1991 18.5 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1992 18.6 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1993 18.8 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1994 18.9 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1995 19.0 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1996 19.2 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1997 19.3 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1998 19.4 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
1999 19.6 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
2000 19.7 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
2001 19.9 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
2002 20.1 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
2003 20.4 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
2004 20.7 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
2005 20.9 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
2006 21.2 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
2007 21.6 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
2008 22.0 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
2009 22.5 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
2010 22.9 Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable Note ...: not applicable
2011 23.3 23.0 23.0 23.0 23.0 23.0
2012 23.8 23.4 23.4 23.4 23.4 23.4
2013 24.3 23.9 23.9 23.9 23.9 23.9
2014 24.7 24.3 24.3 24.3 24.3 24.3
2015 25.2 24.7 24.7 24.7 24.7 24.7
2016 25.7 25.2 25.1 25.2 25.2 25.2
2017 Note ...: not applicable 25.8 25.7 25.8 25.8 25.8
2018 Note ...: not applicable 26.2 26.0 26.4 26.2 26.2
2019 Note ...: not applicable 26.7 26.4 27.0 26.8 26.7
2020 Note ...: not applicable 27.3 26.8 27.6 27.3 27.3
2021 Note ...: not applicable 27.8 27.1 28.2 27.8 27.8
2022 Note ...: not applicable 28.3 27.4 28.9 28.3 28.3
2023 Note ...: not applicable 28.8 27.6 29.5 28.8 28.8
2024 Note ...: not applicable 29.3 27.9 30.2 29.3 29.3
2025 Note ...: not applicable 29.7 28.1 30.8 29.8 29.8
2026 Note ...: not applicable 30.2 28.3 31.4 30.3 30.2
2027 Note ...: not applicable 30.7 28.5 32.1 30.7 30.7
2028 Note ...: not applicable 31.1 28.6 32.7 31.2 31.1
2029 Note ...: not applicable 31.5 28.8 33.2 31.6 31.6
2030 Note ...: not applicable 32.0 28.9 33.8 32.0 32.0
2031 Note ...: not applicable 32.4 29.0 34.3 32.4 32.4
2032 Note ...: not applicable 32.8 29.1 34.8 32.8 32.8
2033 Note ...: not applicable 33.1 29.2 35.3 33.2 33.2
2034 Note ...: not applicable 33.5 29.3 35.8 33.5 33.5
2035 Note ...: not applicable 33.8 29.4 36.2 33.9 33.9
2036 Note ...: not applicable 34.2 29.5 36.7 34.2 34.2

According to the reference scenario, by 2036 this proportion could reach 34%, or just over one in three people in the labour force. Because they propose variants on future immigration levels, the high- and low-growth scenarios lead to different results: the proportion would reach 37% according to the high-growth scenario, and would not exceed 30% according to the low-growth scenario.

Over the past 25 years, the majority of Canadian immigrants who came to Canada were born in Asia. As a result, the proportion of members of visible minority groups in the labour force has also increased rapidly over the past 20 years (Chart 7). This proportion was 22% in 2016 and could reach 36% in 2036 according to the reference scenario, or more than one in three people in the labour force. This proportion could be lower (33%) in the low-growth scenario, and could reach 38% in the high-growth scenario, which suggests an immigration rate of 1% as of 2022, and a similar distribution of immigrants across countries of origin.

Chart 7 Observed (1996 to 2016) and projected (2021 to 2036) percentage of visible minorities in the labour force by immigrant status, reference scenario, Canada

Data table for Chart 7 
Data table for chart 7
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for chart 7. The information is grouped by Immigrant status (appearing as row headers), 1996, 2001, 2006, 2011, 2016, 2021, 2026, 2031 and 2036, calculated using percent units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Immigrant status 1996 2001 2006 2011 2016 2021 2026 2031 2036
percent
Foreign-born 9.0 10.7 12.8 14.8 17.3 20.0 22.5 24.8 26.7
Canadian-born 1.4 2.0 2.6 3.5 4.3 5.4 6.5 7.8 9.2

The visible minority population is growing not only because of immigration, but also because of immigrants already settled in Canada having children. As a result, the proportion of people belonging to visible minorities groups born in Canada is also increasing. Combined with the fact that Canadian-born visible minorities people tend to have higher levels of education than the rest of the populationNote —an element taken into account in the projection model—the proportion of Canadian-born visible minority members within the labour force is also rising rapidly. Among labour force participants who were part of a visible minority group in 2016, 20% were born in Canada and, therefore, were likely educated in Canada. By 2036, this proportion could reach 26% according to the reference scenario, 24% in the high-growth scenario and 30% in the low-growth scenario. The higher proportion in the low-growth scenario is explained by the fact that the concentration of foreign-born individuals within the labour force would be lower because of a lower level of immigration.

Results vary considerably from one region to another

The national situation masks significant regional differences. The Demosim microsimulation projection model projects the population and its characteristics on a sub-provincial scale, mainly for the country’s major metropolitan areas and non-metropolitan areas (see the section on Data sources, methods and definitions). Since the structure of the economy is often different between urban and rural areas, it is important to understand regional variations in projected labour force trends.

Labour force characteristics for 18 regions were projected, with some groupings required because of smaller population sizes: in the Atlantic, (1) the Halifax, St. John’s, Saint John and Moncton metropolitan areas combined, and (2) non-metropolitan areas; in Quebec, (3) the Montréal metropolitan area, (4) other metropolitan areas (Sherbrooke, Québec, Trois-Rivières and Saguenay combined) and (5) non-metropolitan areas; in Ontario, (6) the metropolitan areas of Ottawa–Gatineau, (7) the Toronto metropolitan area and (8) the Sudbury and Thunder Bay metropolitan areas combined, which are both located in Northern Ontario, (9) the other metropolitan areas (Brantford, Oshawa, Kitchener–Cambridge–Waterloo, Barrie, Guelph, Kingston, Hamilton, London, Peterborough, St. Catharines–Niagara, Windsor combined) and (10) non-metropolitan areas; in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, (11) the Winnipeg, Regina and Saskatoon metropolitan areas combined, and (12) non-metropolitan areas; in Alberta, (13) the Calgary and Edmonton metropolitan areas combined, and (14) non-metropolitan areas; in British Columbia, (15) the Vancouver metropolitan area, (16) the other metropolitan areas (Kelowna, Victoria, Abbotsford–Mission combined), and (17) non-metropolitan areas; and (18) the three territories (Nunavut, Northwest Territories and Yukon) considered together.

Projection results by region based on the reference scenario are presented in Table 2. However, given the uncertainties about the future of the Canadian labour force, readers are invited to also consider results from alternative scenarios.Note


Table 2
Demographic indicators of the labour force by region, reference scenario, 2017 and 2036
Table summary
This table displays the results of Demographic indicators of the labour force by region. The information is grouped by Regions (appearing as row headers), Medium annual growth, Overall participation rate , Aged 55 and over / aged 15 and over, Foreign-born persons , Visible minorities, Ratio in the labour force, aged 15 and over / not in the labour force, aged 65 and over, 2017 to 2036, 2017 and 2036, calculated using percentage and ratio units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Regions Average annual growth Overall participation rate Aged 55 and over / aged 15 and over Foreign-born persons Visible minorities Ratio in the labour force, aged 15 and over / not in the labour force, aged 65 and over
2017 to 2036 2017 2036 2017 2036 2017 2036 2017 2036 2017 2036
percent ratio
Atlantic CMAsTable 2 Note 1 0.2 65.9 60.4 19.5 27.8 8.4 14.7 7.0 13.3 3.9 2.3
Atlantic, outside CMAs -0.5 58.4 53.2 25.1 31.6 4.5 9.0 2.6 6.1 2.5 1.6
Montréal CMA 1.2 67.6 65.3 18.6 23.3 29.6 39.3 23.5 37.1 4.2 3.3
Other Québec CMAs 0.0 63.8 57.4 20.5 25.3 6.2 10.4 3.7 7.3 3.0 1.8
Québec, outside CMAs -0.1 60.8 55.0 23.3 26.5 2.5 4.3 1.2 2.8 2.6 1.6
Ottawa–Gatineau CMA 1.1 67.3 64.3 18.5 23.5 23.5 30.4 21.2 33.5 4.5 3.0
Sudbury and Thunder Bay CMAs -0.5 60.4 55.5 21.3 27.5 5.6 6.4 3.2 5.9 3.0 1.8
Toronto CMA 1.5 66.9 65.5 20.0 25.6 53.2 57.0 50.6 65.6 4.7 3.6
Other Ontario CMAs 0.7 64.8 61.5 20.6 26.3 19.8 23.7 13.9 23.6 3.7 2.5
Ontario, outside CMAs 0.1 60.0 57.7 24.5 27.3 6.9 7.2 2.4 4.1 2.7 1.9
Winnipeg, Regina and Saskatoon CMAs 1.5 68.5 67.5 19.3 23.0 25.0 43.3 23.1 43.9 4.6 3.7
Manitoba and Saskatchewan, outside CMAs 0.4 65.4 64.3 25.2 27.9 10.8 21.8 5.3 14.5 3.5 2.8
Alberta CMAs 2.3 72.4 70.6 18.6 23.0 30.9 42.7 29.1 46.2 6.1 4.6
Alberta, outside CMAs 1.3 70.2 68.1 22.0 26.2 11.6 18.0 7.2 14.4 5.1 3.5
Vancouver CMA 1.4 67.4 62.7 20.0 24.7 46.4 52.8 47.6 61.6 4.5 3.0
Other British Columbia CMAs 0.8 65.2 60.7 21.3 24.9 19.4 24.7 14.9 23.5 3.3 2.3
British Columbia, outside CMAs 0.2 62.1 56.8 24.6 26.8 11.1 13.6 5.1 8.5 2.8 1.9
Territories 1.2 73.5 70.7 19.8 23.8 10.7 16.0 7.2 13.3 9.6 5.6

According to the results of the reference scenario, labour force growth would remain positive in most Canadian regions, with the exception of Thunder Bay and Sudbury (combined), Quebec outside the census metropolitan areas (CMAs), and the Atlantic region outside the CMAs, where it would be negative. As is currently the case, total population growth should remain higher in metropolitan areas than in non-metropolitan areas by 2036. In fact, all regions outside Canada’s CMAs should have negative or near-zero population growth by 2036.

These results are largely related to the projected geographic distribution of immigrants admitted to CanadaNote and regional differences in the age structure.

Even though the participation rate is projected to decrease in all Canadian regions by 2036, the decline is expected to be more pronounced in eastern Canada than in western Canada. In 2036, according to the reference scenario, the lowest overall participation rate (53%) could be observed in the Atlantic non-metropolitan areas, and the highest in both Alberta metropolitan areas (Calgary and Edmonton combined) and the territories (71%). Specifically, 18 percentage points would then separate the participation rate for these regions; in 2017, the maximum difference between these two regions was 15 percentage points.

Some regions stand out from others, such as the Montréal and Toronto metropolitan areas, which are the only ones in eastern Canada that would see little change in their overall participation rates (from 68% in 2017 to 65% in 2036 for Montréal, and from 67% to 66% for Toronto). This is mainly because of the importance of immigration in these two major urban areas.

The regional analysis of the results in the five scenarios developed (the reference scenario and the other four scenarios presented in the Supplementary Information section) shows conclusions similar to those prevailing at the national level. The scenarios that vary the assumptions for the components of population growth (“reference,” “high-growth” and “low-growth” scenarios) lead to quite different results for the size and growth of the labour force, but similar results for the projected trends in the overall participation rate. Differences in the overall participation rate arise in the scenarios that propose different trends in projected labour force participation rates for different age groups (especially beyond age 50) (“trends from 1995 to 2017,” “constant rates” or “50% growth” scenarios).

In all regions, aging and increasing ethnocultural diversity of the labour force are expected to continue

In the reference scenario, the aging of the labour force would continue in all regions of Canada, but to varying degrees. In general, the proportion of people in the labour force that are aged 55 and over should be higher in 2036 in non-metropolitan areas than in metropolitan areas.Note

For example, in 2017, non-metropolitan areas in the Atlantic, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and British Columbia had the highest proportion of people aged 55 and over, with 25%. By 2036, this proportion could exceed 30% in the Atlantic, outside the CMAs. Conversely, this proportion could remain below 25% in the Montréal and Ottawa–Gatineau metropolitan areas; in the metropolitan areas of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta; and in the territories.

The ratio of the number of people in the labour force for each person not in the labour force aged 65 and over should also decrease in all regions of Canada by 2036. In 2017, the ratio was lowest in the Atlantic non-metropolitan areas (2.5), and highest in Alberta’s metropolitan areas (6.1) and in the territories (9.6). By 2036, six regions could have fewer than two people in the labour force for every person not in the labour force aged 65 and over: the Atlantic, Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia non-metropolitan areas, and the metropolitan areas of Quebec (with the exception of Montréal), and Sudbury and Thunder Bay combined. This ratio would remain above four in two regions: the territories (5.6) and Alberta’s metropolitan areas (4.6).

With sustained levels of immigration in Canada in the future—according to the reference scenario—the proportion of people in the labour force that are foreign-born or members of visible minority groups should increase in all regions. Already very different from one region to another in 2017, regional variations could be even larger by 2036. For example, more than 50 percentage points separated the Toronto metropolitan area (53% of the labour force born outside Canada) from the Quebec non-metropolitan areas in 2017 (3%). By 2036, the gap between these two regions could be nearly 53 percentage points, according to the reference scenario.

These gaps would be even larger with regards to the proportion of people in the labour force that are members of a visible minority group, since the fertility of immigrants already living in Canada contributes to the growth of the visible minority population.

Thus, in 2017, about 50 percentage points separated the Toronto metropolitan area (where 51% belonged to a visible minority group) from the Quebec non-metropolitan areas (1%) in 2017. The gap between these two regions could increase to 63 percentage points in 2036, according to the reference scenario.

Overall, the ethnoculturalNote diversity of the labour force would remain significantly lower in all non-metropolitan areas of the country, compared with metropolitan areas. For example, the proportion of people in the labour force that belong to a visible minority group could reach 13% in Atlantic metropolitan areas by 2036, compared with 6% in Atlantic non-metropolitan areas. In British Columbia, this proportion could reach 62% in the Vancouver metropolitan area, 24% in other metropolitan areas of the province and 9% in non-metropolitan areas.

Finally, the other scenarios developed in this exercise also indicate an aging workforce in all regions of the country. However, the extent of this aging would be more dependent in the future on changes in labour force participation rates across age groups, particularly those aged 50 and over, than on changes in the components of population growth.

Conversely, ethnocultural diversity is expected to increase, regardless of the scenario. The magnitude of this increase would be smaller in the low-growth scenario, which assumes lower levels of immigration, than in the reference or high-growth scenarios.

Conclusion

Several observations emerge from the projection results presented in this article. On the one hand, the decrease in the overall participation rate, the continued aging of the labour force and the increase in its ethnocultural diversity for all regions of the country seem inevitable, with the five projection scenarios leading to these results, to varying degrees. These results are also consistent with labour force projections previously released by Statistics CanadaNote ,Note .

On the other hand, fertility, mortality and especially immigration levels will have a significant impact on the size, growth and ethnocultural diversity of the Canadian labour force in the coming years. The future evolution of labour force participation rates by age group could, at least in part, prevent a rapid decline in the overall labour force participation rate, but this effect is not expected to be strong enough to compensate for the aging of the labour force.

In 2017/2018, 80% of Canada’s population growth came from migratory increase, and only 20% came from natural increase (births minus deaths). In recent years, several Atlantic non-metropolitan areas have experienced more deaths than births within their populations. These projections show that, if these trends continue in the future, Canada’s labour force will become increasingly heterogeneous across the country by 2036. Many metropolitan areas may see their labour force continue to grow, with a slower decline in the number of people in the labour force for each person not in the labour force, and a sharp increase in ethnocultural diversity. However, several non-metropolitan areas may see their labour force decline in the coming years, and may maintain a low level of ethnocultural diversity. In some cases, the ratio of the number of people in the labour force for each person not in the labour force could even be less than two to one.

In this context, these projections show that labour force issues in Canada are expected to become increasingly regional, as labour demand also affects the demographic evolution of regions.Note This situation may pose challenges, particularly in terms of regional and sectoral labour shortages, and the maintenance of services for specific populations.

Laurent Martel is director of Demography division at Statistics Canada.

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Data sources, methods and definitions

Data sources

The data that were used to compute these population projections are drawn from several data sources. Labour force data are derived from the Labour Force Survey, a mandatory monthly survey that collects labour force information from all members of households aged 15 and over, as well as information on the demographic characteristics and family ties of all household members. Residents of reserves and other Aboriginal settlements in the provinces, full-time members of the Canadian Armed Forces and persons living in institutions are excluded from the scope of the survey.

Data from the 1996, 2001, 2006 and 2016 censuses, as well as the 2011 National Household Survey, were also used for the base population of the projections, as well as to compute many parameters used as inputs to the projection model.

Projection assumptions and scenarios

The projections were made using Demosim, Statistics Canada’s microsimulation projection model that simultaneously projects many population characteristics, including immigrant status, place of birth, visible minority status, Aboriginal identity, highest level of education, labour force participation, religion, mother tongue and other characteristics.Note Demosim also projects the Canadian population at the scale of census metropolitan areas (CMAs)Note and non-CMA areas, some of which are grouped according to population sizes.

Demosim’s starting population is that of the 2011 National Household Survey (NHS), which has been adjusted for net undercoverage, partially enumerated Indian reserves and institutional populations. All projection products produced using this version of Demosim have a projection horizon of 25 years—ending in 2036. However, observed data, such as labour force participation rates by age group, were added to the model for the period from 2012 to 2017.

For this exercise, five projection scenarios were developed to provide a plausible range for future labour force changes. The choice of scenarios is not intended to predict the future, but rather to provide data users with a portrait of the Canadian population if certain conditions are met. These scenarios also make it possible to estimate the sensitivity of projected labour force trends to changes in the components of population growth and labour force participation rates.

These five scenarios were validated through consultations with other federal departments such as Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada; Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada; Department of Finance Canada; and the Office of the Chief Actuary of Canada. These scenarios were also submitted to the Demosim scientific committee for review.

Scenarios varying according to demographic components

Three scenarios combine different assumptions on fertility, mortality, international and interregional migration. The reference scenario essentially suggests a continuation of recent trends, with a total fertility rate of 1.67 children per woman reached in 2021 and remaining constant thereafter, life expectancy at birth reaching 84.6 years for men and 87.2 years for women in 2036, and an immigration rate of 8.3 immigrants per 1,000 population over the entire projection period. The geographic distribution of immigrants in the future is based on that observed over the period from 2010 to 2015, when Ontario received proportionately fewer immigrants (about 40% of all landed immigrants in Canada) than in the past, while Quebec (about 20%) and the Prairie provinces (about 23%) received more. The country of birth of projected Canadian immigrants is also based on that of landed immigrants in the recent period from 2010 to 2015, when the main countries of birth were the Philippines (15% of all immigrants admitted to Canada), India (13%), China (11%), Iran (4%) and Pakistan (4%). Finally, interregional migration patterns are those that were observed on average during the periods from 1996 to 2001, 2001 to 2006 and 2006 to 2011.

In the low-growth scenario, the total fertility rate reaches 1.53 children per woman in 2021, life expectancy at birth reaches 83.5 years and 86.1 years for men and women respectively in 2036, and the immigration rate reaches 5.0 immigrants per 1,000 population in 2022, then remains constant. The assumption regarding the geographic distribution of immigrants, country of birth and subprovincial migration are the same as in the reference scenario.

In the high-growth scenario, the total fertility rate reaches 1.88 children per woman in 2021, life expectancy at birth reaches 86.2 years for men and 89.0 years for women respectively in 2036, and the immigration rate reaches 10.0 immigrants per 1,000 population in 2022, then remains constant. Assumptions regarding the geographic distribution of immigrants, country of birth and subprovincial migration are the same as in the reference scenario.

Other assumptions are common to these three scenarios, in particular the one regarding the future evolution of education level, which assumes a gradual capping of the upward trend in population education and a continuation of recent differences between projected groups (e.g., immigrants, visible minority groups, Aboriginal peoples).

More information on these assumptions and scenarios is available in Statistics Canada’s 2017 document entitled Immigration and Diversity: Population Projections for Canada and its Regions, 2011 to 2036.

Participation rate assumptions

Three different assumptions were developed regarding the future evolution of labour force participation rates by age group for men at the national level. These three assumptions were combined with the reference scenario for the demographic components to isolate the effect of changes in the future evolution of these participation rates.

The first of these assumptions assumes constant participation rates for men, based on 2017 levels observed in Statistics Canada’s Labour Force Survey (LFS) (Chart 8). This assumption provides a basis for evaluating the other scenarios that were formulated.

Chart 8 Observed (2017) and projected (2036) participation rates according to two scenarios, and participation rates projected by the Chief Actuary of Canada

Data table for Chart 8 
Data table for chart 8
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for chart 8. The information is grouped by Age Group (appearing as row headers), 2017, 2036, Chief Actuary of Canada, Trends from 1995 to 2017 and Slow growth after 50 years, calculated using percent units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Age Group 2017 2036 Chief Actuary of Canada
Trends from 1995 to 2017 Slow growth after 50 years
percent
15 to 19 48.2 46.8 46.8 55.0
20 to 24 76.9 72.7 72.7 82.0
25 to 29 88.8 83.3 83.3 92.0
30 to 34 92.7 87.0 87.0 94.0
35 to 39 92.8 87.9 87.9 94.0
40 to 44 92.6 89.1 89.1 94.0
45 to 49 91.3 88.4 88.4 93.0
50 to 54 88.6 88.6 87.7 91.0
55 to 59 79.9 83.0 80.6 84.0
60 to 64 61.0 68.3 65.0 64.0
65 to 69 33.4 42.6 39.3 35.0
70 to 74 17.5 25.3 22.4 0.0
75 to 79 9.5 16.2 13.6 0.0
80 and over 3.0 3.2 2.9 0.0

The second assumption—trends from 1995 to 2017—implies a continuation by 2036 of the trends observed from 1995 to 2017 in the LFS. As these trends are essentially stable and linear for age groups under 50, they are projected using linear extrapolations to 2036, and the projected rates are only marginally different from those observed recently.

From the age of 50, these trends are upward and have been extrapolated to 2036 in the future using second-order polynomial regressions, which assume asymptotic curves to avoid reaching levels in the future that appear absurd or inconsistent with the level of adjacent age groups.

Several factors indicate that the participation rates of older workers may continue to increase in the future. These factors include the delay in entering the labour force at an early age, particularly due to longer periods of education; the decline in coverage of many pension plans and the increase in the number of defined contribution plans; the indebtedness of Canadian households; growing sectoral labour shortages in some regions of the country; and the continued increase in life expectancy.

The third assumption—50% growth—halves the projected growth in participation rates among men aged 50 and over from the assumption on trends from 1995 to 2017, thus proposing a more modest increase in participation rates in the future.

Finally, Chart 8 also compares these three assumptions to the 2035 projected rates for men projected by the Office of the Chief Actuary of Canada in its Actuarial Report (27th) on the Canada Pension Plan.Note Most of the differences, but not a significant amount, are for the under-30 age group, where the projected rates are slightly higher under the Office of the Chief Actuary assumption than according to Statistics Canada. Beyond age 50, the Office of the Chief Actuary’s assumption is very close to Statistics Canada’s “low-growth” assumption and is therefore in the middle of the range proposed in this exercise.

Projected rates for women are derived from those for men using an assumed constant male–female ratio for age groups under 50. For the older age groups, the male-female ratio is assumed to stay constant for cohorts as they age, in order to gradually eliminate a generation effect, with women born more recently having a labour market participation rate closer to that of men.

During the simulation, these projected participation rates by age group and sex in Canada are multiplied by multiplying factors to vary the participation rates according to several characteristics of the simulated individuals as well as regional variations. These multipliers are obtained through logistic regressions applied to data in a file that combines the 2001 and 2006 censuses with the 2011 National Household Survey (NHS). Model variables include Aboriginal group; Registered Indian status; visible minority group; immigrant status; immigration period; generation status; place of birth; marital status; presence of children and age of youngest child; education level; knowledge of official languages; and place of residence. Multiplier factors are assumed to be constant over the entire projection period, with separate analysis of the 2001, 2006 and 2011 censuses and 2011 NHS showing a general stability of these parameters over time.

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Related information

Supplementary information

Related articles

Data sources

Bibliographic references

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