14. Social and economic considerations

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A number of social and economic factors influence sport participation in Canada. The influence of the aging of the population is at work and its impact on active sports will continue to be felt well into the future. Other social factors include the amount of leisure time available to Canadians, the popularity of other forms of physical activity and perhaps longer hours at work.

Other factors that influence participation in sport include changing levels of consumer spending on other leisure time activities18, as well as technological innovations such as the Internet that create new ways to spend leisure time19.

14.1 The aging of the population

The aging of the Canadian population affects numerous aspects of society from housing to health needs to recreational and travel choices. Factors contributing to the aging of the Canadian population include low fertility, longer life expectancy and the sheer numbers of the baby-boom generation.

The combination of these three factors has meant that an increasing proportion of the Canadian population is 55 year of age and older. The median age in Canada was 29.5 in 1981. It rose to 36 in 1998, and by 2005, it had reached 38.5, a clear indication of the aging of the population. Between 1981 and 2005, the median age increased by 30.5%.

This is the result of the changing composition of the population. In 1981, the proportion of the Canadian population aged 14 and under was 22.3%. By 2005, it had dropped to 17.6%, a reflection of low fertility in Canada. At the other end of the age spectrum, seniors (aged 65 and over) represented 9.6% of the population in 1981. By 2005, their share of the total population had reached 13.1%, and their number climbed to 4.2 million people from 2.4 million in 1981, an increase of 75%.

This demographic change is likely to have an important negative influence on levels of sport participation, reshaping the composition of participants and lowering active participation. With the largest cohort (the baby boomers) aging, this trend is likely to continue into the future. Their sheer numbers will further decrease the rate of sport participation in Canada.

14.2 Leisure time declined

Leisure time of Canadians (which is the residual of the 24-hour day that is not allocated to paid and unpaid work or personal care) declined 5% from 6.1 hours per day in 1998 to 5.8 hours per day in 2005. That represented a leisure time loss of 18 minutes per day.

This loss is coming at a time when Canadians have lots of leisure activities available to them ranging from going to movies or watching television, to various hobbies, to sport, to socializing, attending a performing arts event, reading or gardening, to surfing on the Internet or online chatting.

Chart 25
Average free time per day, 2005

14.3 Economic considerations

Sport contributes to Canada's economy and society in many ways. It develops individuals' physical, attitudinal, and behavioural skills20 which are transferable to personal life conditions, the workplace, and society at large. These skills include teamwork, leadership, problem-solving, communications, decision making and management. Sport also builds character and a sense of purpose and responsibility.21

These skills help to build a healthy and collaborative workplace and a productive economy at the supply end of the economy. At the demand end, the expenditures on sports and related activities contribute to economic development and prosperity in Canada. In its report on the impacts and benefits of sport participation, the Conference Board of Canada estimated 16 billion dollars of household spending on sports in 2004.22 That represented 2.2% of total household spending and 1.2% of the GDP, while supporting about 2% of jobs in Canada.

14.4 Conclusion

Regardless of its contributions to individuals, communities and the overall economy, sport remains only one of many leisure time activities competing for the limited free time of Canadians. If free time declines, sport participation may continue to decrease. This may result from a number of factors such as time pressures from work and family responsibilities, aging of the population, and variation in access to sport among gender, income, social and linguistic groups.

Household expenditures on sports come from the discretionary income of consumers and can be affected by the performance of the Canadian economy. Households are likely to reallocate their discretionary income from leisure goods and services to necessities during any economic downturn when domestic income is lower. Overall, the economy is unlikely to be affected by such reallocation of the discretionary income.

However, the effects may be felt most strongly among households with children and youths, particularly those vulnerable to various barriers to sport participation. The consequences may range from obesity, lower self esteem and difficulties with friends to perhaps lower performance at school than their counterparts who have little or no barriers to participation.

Table 27
Average time spent per day1 on various activities (population 15 years and older) by sport participants, 1992, 1998 and 20052

Table 28
Profile of Canadians (15 years and older) who participated in structured sport, 2005

Table 29
Profile of Canadians (15 years and older) who participate in unstructured sport, 2005

Table 30
Perceived benefits of participating in structured and unstructured sport by age group and sex, Canada, 2005