Population composition

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Importance of indicator
Highlights and graphs
Other studies

Population composition is the description of a population according to characteristics such as age and sex. These data are often compared over time using population pyramids.

Importance of indicator

The composition of the population is part of the social environment. It provides a framework against which to interpret the health status and behaviours of the population.


Among OECD countries, Canada's population has a relatively small percentage of seniors.  In Japan 23% of the population is aged 65 or older, 20% in Italy and Germany.  By contrast, India, Indonesia, and South Africa are at the other extreme, with 5% to 6% of their population in their senior years1.

While the overall population is aging, within Canada, the Aboriginal population is relatively young.  In 2006, fewer than 5% of the Aboriginal population were aged 65 or older.  The median ages of the Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal populations were 27 and 40, respectively2.

See animated population pyramids

Highlights and graphs

Age group and sex


Graph 1.1 - Percentage of males and females, by age group, Canada, 2006

  • In 2006 354,617 babies were born in Canada; for every 100 girls, 106 boys were born. This was up slightly from 2000 when 327,882 babies were born with the same male to female ratio as in 2006 3.

  • In 2006 males comprised just over half of the population until around age 50 when females, having longer life expectancy, began to outnumber males; among seniors aged 85 or older, there were 2.2 females for every male.

Time trend


Graph 1.2 - Observed and projected percentage of youth, working age population, and seniors, Canada, 1971 to 2056

  • Young people under the age of 20 account for an ever decreasing proportion of the population; from 39% in 1971 to 24% in 2006. The size of the youth population is projected to decline to 18% by 2056.

  • The working-age population increased as the baby boomers entered the workforce, but will decrease again when they start to leave this population in 2011.

  • Seniors currently account for 14% of the population; by 2056, it is projected that their share of the population will rise to more than 27%.


1. Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). OECD Factbook 2009: Economic, Environmental and Social Statistics, 2009. OECD.
2. Statistics Canada. Aboriginal identity population by age groups, median age and sex, 2006 counts for Canada, provinces and territories – 20% sample data (table)  Aboriginal Peoples Highlight Tables. 2006 Census: (Catalogue 97-558). Ottawa.

3. Statistics Canada. Live births, by birth weight and sex, Canada, provinces and territories, annual (CANSIM Table). 

Other studies

Bélanger A, Martel L, Caron-Malenfant E.  Population projections for Canada, Provinces and Territories, 2005-2031 (Catalogue 91-520) Ottawa: Statistics Canada, 2005.

Burke MA. An aging society, Another viewpoint: Implications of an aging society. Canadian Social Trends (Statistics Canada, Catalogue 11-008) 1991; (20):6-8.

Desjardins B. Aging of the population and seniors in Canada (Catalogue 91-533) Ottawa: Statistics Canada, 1993.

Martel L, Caron-Malenfant É. Portrait of the Canadian Population in 2006, by Age and Sex, 2006 Census (Catalogue 97-551) Ottawa: Statistics Canada, 2007.

Romaniuc A.  Fertility in Canada: from Baby-boom to Baby-bust (Catalogue 91-524) Ottawa: Statistics Canada, 1984.

Statistics Canada. Report on the Demographic Situation in Canada 1994 (Catalogue 91-209) Ottawa: Statistics Canada, 2006.

Statistics Canada. Report on the demographic situation in Canada 2005 and 2006 (Catalogue 91-209) Ottawa: Statistics Canada, 2008. 

Turcotte M, Schellenberg G. A Portrait of seniors in Canada 2006 (Catalogue 89-519) Ottawa: Statistics Canada, 2007.

United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division. World Population Ageing: 1950-2050. New York: United Nations Publications, 2001.

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