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A. Number of births

In 2007, 367,864 births were registered in Canada, the largest number of births since 1995 (378,016) and the highest annual increase (3.7%) since 1989 (4.2%).

A.1. Trends in births

Over the past 20 years, Canada has seen both upward and downward trends in the number of births (Chart 1). After peaking in 1990, the number of births fell steadily throughout the 1990s. In 2000, almost 328,000 births were registered—the lowest number since the end of the Second World War. With the exception of 2002, there was an upward trend in the number of births since 2000. In the most recent years, there was a sharp increase in annual births: 3.6% in 2006 and 3.7% in 2007.

A.2. Geographic differences

From 2006 to 2007, the number of births rose in all provinces and territories except Prince Edward Island and Yukon (Table 1). In 2007, four provinces accounted for 83% of the total increase in births. Alberta was the largest contributor with almost 30% of the total increase, followed by Ontario (21%), Quebec (18%) and British Columbia (14%).

The largest relative increases occurred in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Nunavut.

B. Fertility

The total fertility rate (TFR) is the sum of single-year, age-specific fertility rates during a given year. It represents the average number of children that a woman would have if the current age-specific fertility rates prevail over her reproductive period.

B.1. General trends in fertility

The TFR was 1.66 children per woman in 2007, up 4% from the previous year (Table 2). This is the highest TFR recorded since 1992, when it was 1.69, and the largest annual increase since 1957 (during the baby boom years). However, this TFR is still well below the generational replacement level of 2.1 children per woman—the fertility rate that must be maintained to replace the population in the absence of migration. The last year that the total fertility rate exceeded the generational replacement level was 1971. 1 

Closely paralleling the trend in births, the TFR fell throughout the 1990s and then began climbing in 2001 (Chart 1). The drop in the TFR (and in the number of births) in 2000, and the quick recovery in 2001, may have been related to a desire to have a baby in the first year of the new millennium. The number of marriages also increased in 2000. 2 

In 2007, Nunavut had the highest fertility in the country, with a TFR of 2.97 children per woman, ensuring the generational replacement level. In contrast, Newfoundland and Labrador had the lowest TFR with 1.46 children per woman in 2007.

Other provinces with a TFR lower than the national average of 1.66 children per woman were Prince Edward Island, Yukon, Ontario, New Brunswick, British Columbia and Nova Scotia. On the other hand, Saskatchewan had the highest total fertility rate, 2.03 children per woman in 2007.

From 2006 to 2007, the TFR rose in all provinces and territories except Yukon. The largest increase was observed in Nunavut, with an average of 0.13 children per woman more than in 2006. On the other hand, the smallest increase, 0.04 children per woman, was in the Northwest Territories. Five other provinces (British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Alberta and Nova Scotia) had larger increases in TFR than the national level and four provinces had the same level of increase as Canada. Ontario was the only province where the rise in TFR was less than the national level.

B.2. Age of mother and age-specific fertility rate

Fertility rates increased in all age groups in 2007. From 2006 to 2007, changes in age-specific fertility rates differed from region to region. 3  However, fertility rates for women aged less than 35 years rose in all provinces, except Prince Edward Island for women aged 20 to 24.

Among the 10 provinces, the highest fertility rate for mothers aged 15 to 29 occurred in Saskatchewan in 2007. For women aged 30 to 34, the fertility rate was highest in Alberta. Ontario had the highest fertility rate for women aged 35 to 39 and British Columbia for women aged 40 to 49.

Over the past 20 years, there have been significant changes in the age-specific fertility rates in Canada (Chart 2). The decades between 1987 and 2007 saw an overall decline in the fertility rate of Canadian women in their twenties, while that of women in their thirties increased steadily. In 2006, the fertility rate of women aged 30 to 34 surpassed the fertility rate of those aged 25 to 29.

In the last 10 years, there was an important shift in the age structure of fertility (Chart 3). In 1997, the age-specific fertility rate peaked among women aged 25 to 29. Ten years later, the highest fertility rate had shifted to women aged 30 to 34.

In 2007, the age-specific fertility rate was highest for mothers aged 30 to 34 (106 per 1,000 females) for a second consecutive year and their rate was the highest since 1965 (119 per 1,000). In addition, from 2006 to 2007, the increase in the age-specific fertility rate of women aged 30 to 34 was larger than for those aged 25 to 29, widening the gap between these two age groups.

B.3. Analysing 2007 fertility rate

Two factors could account for the increases in the number of births in recent years: an increase in the number of women of reproductive age and a rise in fertility rates.

By applying age-specific fertility rates (ASFRs) for 2006 to the female population in 2007 (Table 3), it is possible to estimate how much of the increase in births in 2007 can be attributed to changes in the size of the population compared with changes in fertility rates.

If there had been no change in age-specific fertility rates from 2006 to 2007, the expected number of births in 2007 would have been 357,558 (Table 3), or 2,941 more births than in 2006. In fact, from 2006 to 2007, there was an increase of 13,247 births. The additional 10,306 births can, therefore, be attributed to changes in fertility.

In 2007, the number of potential childbearers aged 30 to 44 were mainly from the baby buster generation (see section C). From 2006 to 2007, this smaller cohort of women (aged 30 to 44) increased their fertility and, as a result, gave birth to 181,250 babies, which represented 49% of total births in 2007 and 7,397 more births than in 2006.

C. Echoes of the baby boom

The period of time from the end of the Second World War to the mid-1960s witnessed a dramatic increase in the fertility rates, the result of which was the baby boom phenomenon.

C.1. Historical trends

In 1947, when the TFR was 3.6 children per woman—the highest rate since 1921 4 — the number of births totalled 372,600, and the crude birth rate was 28.9 per 1,000 population (Chart 4).

At the height of the baby boom in 1959, when the TFR was 3.9 children per woman, annual births exceeded 479,000—the highest number recorded since comparable Canada-wide vital statistics were first compiled in 1921.

The annual number of births remained high for a few more years, and then dropped sharply starting in 1964. This period of low numbers of births, known as the baby bust, 5  lasted for approximately 10 years until the mid-1970s, reaching its lowest level in 1973.

C.2. Echo generation

The first baby boom ’echo’ 6  was expected in the mid-1970s, approximately 25 years after the beginning of the baby boom. But while there was a sizeable increase in the number of births in 1974 and 1975, gains in the following years were relatively modest. Only in the late 1980s (1988 to 1990) was there a substantial rise in the number of births (Chart 4).

From 1988 to 1995, Canada experienced a clear baby-boom echo as the baby boomers had a large number of births, peaking at 405,486 in 1990. Thereafter, annual births dropped, falling to 327,882 in 2000, which was less than the lowest number in the baby bust period.

Over the past five years, Canada has seen a continuous upward trend in the number of births. The recent increase in births could be explained partly by the fact that many women from the echo generation have entered their childbearing years and by the fertility rates that had edged up from 1.50 children per woman in 2002 to 1.66 in 2007.

C.3. Comparison with other low-fertility countries

Low fertility rate is a phenomenon that Canada shares with many countries. The rising number of births in Canada parallels trends in several other of these countries, which have also experienced an upturn in fertility in recent years (Table 4).

From 2004 to 2007, the TFR increased in all 10 selected countries. Until 2006, the rise in fertility in Canada was modest. However, from 2006 to 2007, following Australia and Czech Republic, Canada registered the third-highest increase in TFR among the 10 countries.

D. Change in stillbirths

The number of stillbirths (or fetal deaths) in Canada was 2,637 in 2007, an increase of 365 stillbirths (16%) from 2006.

The stillbirth rate also went up from 6.4 per 1,000 total births (live births and stillbirths) in 2006 to 7.1 in 2007.

D.1. Trends in stillbirth rates

Since 1991, stillbirth rates have fluctuated around 6.0 per 1,000 total births until 2006. In 2007, stillbirths edged up to 7.1 per 1,000 total births, an increase of 10% from the previous year. In contrast, the late stillbirth rate (fetal deaths at 28 or more weeks of gestation) peaked at 3.8 per 1,000 in 1992, and has since decreased to 2.9 in 2005, but rose slightly to 3.2 in 2007.