Section 2: Population by age and sex

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This section analyzes estimates of the population by age and sex for Canada, the provinces and territories on July 1, 2013.

National portrait

Population aging

In recent decades, one of the main changes related to Canada's age and sex structure is population aging. The following age-sex pyramid (Figure 2.1) illustrates the aging of Canada's population by comparing the age and sex structure of the Canadian population on July 1, 1983 and 2013. In particular, the pyramid shows the impact of the large cohort of baby boomers, born between 1946 and 1965, on Canada's age structure. The movement of the baby boomers through the age structure is especially apparent in this age-sex pyramid. Thirty years ago, the baby boomers were young adults in the 18 to 37 age range, whereas now they are in the 48 to 67 age range.

Figure 2.1: Age pyramid of population estimates as of July 1, 1983 and 2013, Canada

According to preliminary estimates, 5,379,600 Canadians, that is around one person out of six (15.3%), were aged 65 and over on July 1, 2013. This proportion is steadily increasing since the middle of the 1960s because of fertility rates persistently below the replacement level and an increasing life expectancy. By comparison, the proportion of Canadians aged 65 and over was 9.9% on July 1, 1983, that is 30 years earlier. The growth of this segment of the population has accelerated over the last 2 years, with annual growth above 4.0% compared to growth ranging between 2.5% and 3.2% since 2005. Over the coming years, this proportion should continue to rise rapidly as an increasing number of baby boomers will reach the age of 65.

At the international level 1  , the proportion of seniors in Canada remains below the proportions registered in Japan (25.0%), Germany (21.0%), France (17.0%) and the United Kingdom (16.0%). However, it is slightly higher than those recorded in Australia (14.0%) and the United States (14.0%).

In 2013, one Canadian in two is at least 40 years of age. The median age of Canada's population has grown by 10 years in the past 30 years (see Chart 2.1). On July 1, 2013, the median age of the Canadian population was 40.2 years. The median age is higher for women (41.1 years) than for men (39.4 years). This difference is explained by a persistent, although diminishing, gap in life expectancy in favour of females. The most recent data show that females' life expectancy was 83.6 years, compared with 79.3 years for males 2  .

As of July 1, 2013, the number of children aged 14 and under was estimated at 5,674,100. They represented 16.1% of the total population, down from 21.8% on July 1, 1983. The number of children (population aged less than 15) still remains higher than the number of seniors (population aged 65 and over) but the gap between the two groups is decreasing. Between 1983 and 2013, the number of seniors more than doubled (115.3%), while the number of children slightly increased (2.7%). Thus, on July 1, 2013, the number of children surpassed that of seniors by 294,500 compared to a difference of over 3.0 million at the same date in 1983. The aging of the population in Canada is bound to accelerate in the coming years, as all members of the vast baby-boom cohort reach age 65. At that point, the proportion of persons aged 65 and over will exceed the proportion of children under 15 years of age. The most recent projections show that seniors could account for more than one-quarter of the population by 2036 3  .

Population aging does not affect all parts of the country in the same way. On July 1, 2013, the youngest populations in Canada generally resided in the territories, while the oldest lived in the Atlantic provinces. Newfoundland and Labrador was the place in Canada with the oldest population (44.2 years). Among the provinces, Alberta had the youngest population (36.0 years). Owing to higher fertility and lower life expectancy, Nunavut had the youngest population in Canada, with a median age of 25.4 years in 2013.

Five-year age group

All age groups over 40 posted higher growths than the national average between 1983 and 2013, suggesting that the ageing of the population is bound to accelerate in the coming years. The largest increases happened in age groups aged 80 and over 4  . Between 1983 and 2013, the age group showing the largest increase (+108.6%) was the 85 and over group (Chart 2.2), going from 207,900 in 1983 to 702,000 in 2013. Following them was the population between 80 and 84 years of age (+89.3%). Five other age groups saw their numbers increasing at a notably high rate over the last 30 years: the 50 to 54 (+74.2%), the 55 to 59 (+70.2%), the 45 to 49 (+68.1%), the 65 to 69 (+67.7%) and the 75 to 79 (+67.7%). Except for the 75 to 79, the strong increase in the size of these age groups is due to the presence of baby boomers, who comprise the largest cohorts in the history of Canada. From 1983 to 2013, three age groups saw their numbers decrease: the 20 to 24 (-2.4%), the 10 to 14 (-1.1%) and the 15 to 19 (-0.6%). These cohorts were born between 1989 and 2003, a period in which Canadian fertility was at its lowest levels, reaching a low of 1.49 children per woman at the turn of the 21st century 5  .

Sex ratio

Aside from aging, the sex structure of the population is also changing (Chart 2.3). On July 1, 2013, in the Canadian population as a whole, there were an estimated 98 males per 100 females compared to 99 males per 100 females in 1983. Males outnumbered females in the 0 to 14 and 15 to 39 age ranges, owing to the sex ratio at birth, which averages 105 males per 100 females. However, when people reach the middle of their fifties, the numbers of males start to fall slightly below the numbers of females, because of a higher male mortality rate. This gap widens at more advanced ages, with the result that among persons aged 65 to 79, there were estimated to be 91 males per 100 females on July 1, 2013. This is nevertheless an increase compared with 1983, when for 100 females there were only 79 males. In the population aged 80 and over, there were an estimated 61 males per 100 females on July 1, 2013, compared with only 54 per 100 on July 1, 1983. Among centenarians, in 2013, there were only 13 males left per 100 females.

Children (under 15 years of age)

The proportion of children within the population continues to decline. On July 1, 2013, there were an estimated 5,674,100 children aged 0 to 14 in Canada, representing 16.1% of the total population. They accounted for 21.8% of the population in 1983. The most recent population projections show that the proportion of children aged 0 to 14 years could fall below 16.0% during the 2030s. They also show that between 2015 and 2021, the number of children will be surpassed by the number of seniors. The proportion of children varies from one part of Canada to another, peaking at the national level in Nunavut (30.8%) and, among the provinces, in Saskatchewan (18.8%) and Manitoba (18.7%).

The recent rise in fertility has slightly increased the proportion of children under five years of age in the population. As a result, on July 1, 2013, they constituted 5.5% of the Canadian population, up slightly from the historic low reached in 2005 (5.3%). However, children under five are still proportionally less numerous than in 1983, when they comprised 7.2% of the total population.

Working-age population (15 to 64 years of age)

On July 1, 2013, the number of persons aged 15 to 64 was estimated at 24,104,600 or 68.6% of the Canadian population. This proportion is 0.2 percentage points higher than in 1983. According to the most recent population projections, the proportion of the population that is of working age could gradually decline to 60% by the early 2030s, when the baby boomers will all have crossed the age 65 threshold. The proportion of persons of working age varies from one part of Canada to another, reaching its highest levels at the national scale in Yukon (73.4%) and, among the provinces, in Alberta (70.6%) and British Columbia (68.8%).

The working-age population can be divided into two groups: the younger segment (aged 15 to 39) and the older segment (aged 40 to 64). On July 1, 2013, the younger segment comprised 48.9% of the working-age population. On the other hand, the older segment of the working-age population has exceeded the younger segment since 2005. In 1983, the younger segment of the working-age population comprised 63.8% of the population aged 15 to 64.

Senior population (65 years and over)

The population aged 65 and over continues to grow. On July 1, 2013, the roughly 5,379,600 people aged 65 and over comprised 15.3% of the Canadian population (see Chart 2.4). In 1983, seniors comprised 9.9% of the population. The aging of the population in Canada is expected to accelerate between 2013 and 2031, when all of the vast cohort of baby boomers will have reached age 65.

The proportion of persons aged 65 and over differs from one part of Canada to another, ranging from 3.5% in Nunavut to 17.7% in Nova Scotia. The most recent projections show that by 2036, seniors could constitute more than one-fourth of the population. According to these same projections, seniors could outnumber children beginning in 2017.

Very elderly population (80 years and over)

Having grown steadily, the population aged 80 and over was estimated at 1,430,200 on July 1, 2013. In 2013, this population comprised 4.1% of the Canadian population, compared with 1.9% in 1983. Demographic projections indicate that in 2036, 7.6% of Canadians could be 80 years of age or older.

Also, persons aged 80 or over account for an increasing share of the population aged 65 and over. On July 1, 2013, 26.6% of the population aged 65 and over was aged 80 and over. This proportion was estimated at 19.5% in 1983 but could reach 32,0% toward 2036.

Centenarian population (100 years and over)

Due to increasing life expectancy, more and more Canadians reach the age of 100. On July 1, 2013, according to preliminary estimates, there were 6,900 centenarians in Canada, representing almost 20 centenarians per 100,000 persons. In 2001, this proportion was two times lower, at 11 centenarians per 100,000 persons. By comparison, in 2012, Japan’s population was comprised of around 40 centenarians per 100,000 persons 6  . More women than men reach the age of 100 because of lower mortality levels at all ages. In 2013, centenarians were mostly women (87.1%).

Portrait of provinces and territories

Population aging

The age structure of the population can change a lot from one province or territory to the other. These differences are more often due to differences in the levels of fertility and immigration, and to changes in interprovincial migration. On July 1, 2013, Canada's younger populations were found in the territories and in the Prairies, and the older populations in the Atlantic provinces (Table 2.1). The youngest populations in Canada were found in Nunavut (25.4 years) and the Northwest Territories (32.4 years), owing to higher fertility and lower life expectancy.

Not only do the Atlantic provinces have older populations, but those populations have aged more rapidly in the past 30 years (Chart 2.5). This is a trend that goes back a number of years; it is attributable to regional differences in demographic behaviours, in particular the change over time in fertility, which was first higher, then lower than the national average, and substantial losses with respect to interprovincial migration.

In 1983, the provinces and territories had a very different demographic profile with regard to population aging. The provinces whose populations had the highest median ages were British Columbia (31.4 years), Ontario (31.0 years), Quebec (30.5 years) and Manitoba (30.2 years). On the other hand, the province with the lowest median age was Newfoundland and Labrador (26.2 years).

Sex ratio

The populations of the provinces and territories differ not only in their age structure but also in their sex structure (Chart 2.6). In 1983, the places with the highest sex ratios were the two territories: Yukon and the Northwest Territories, with 112 males per 100 females, and among the provinces, Alberta, with 104 males per 100 females.

Since 1983, the sex structure of the populations of the provinces and territories has changed, in part because of the population aging process. The proportion of males has declined throughout Canada except in Quebec, Manitoba and Saskatchewan. On July 1, 2013, it was once again the territories and Alberta that posted the highest sex ratios in Canada. Nunavut ranked first with 107 males per 100 females, followed by the Northwest Territories (105); these are both places with high fertility and a young population. Among the provinces, Alberta had the highest sex ratio (103), mainly because it too has a younger population; males outnumber females in the youngest populations. Finally, Prince Edward Island (95) and Nova Scotia (96) were the provinces with the lowest sex ratio on July 1, 2013.

Provincial and territorial variations

Newfoundland and Labrador

On July 1, 2013, 17.1% of the population of Newfoundland and Labrador was aged 65 and over. Its median age, estimated at 44.2 years, was the highest in Canada. In the past 30 years, this province's median age has risen by 18.0 years, the largest increase in Canada. Thus, Newfoundland and Labrador has gone from being the province with the lowest median age in 1983 to the one with the highest median age. This province combines low fertility with substantial migratory losses, two factors that contribute to population aging.

Prince Edward Island

The median age of Prince Edward Island's population stood at 43.1 years on July 1, 2013, while the proportion of its population that was aged 65 and over was estimated at 17.3%. Among the Atlantic provinces, Prince Edward Island had the lowest median age. Also, 15.8% of the province's population was under 15 years of age, the highest proportion in the Atlantic region. Prince Edward Island is the province with the highest fertility in that region.

Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia had one of the oldest populations in Canada. The share of its population that was aged 65 and over was estimated at 17.7%, the highest of the country. Also, its median age was 43.8 years, the third highest figure after Newfoundland and Labrador and New Brunswick. This situation is due both to lower fertility and to interprovincial migratory losses for many years.

New Brunswick

On July 1, 2013, 17.6% of the population of New Brunswick was aged 65 and over, the second highest figure in Canada. Its median age was estimated at 43.9 years, up 15.0 years since 1983. Like the other Atlantic provinces, New Brunswick has a fertility rate below the national average and losses in its migratory exchanges with the rest of Canada.


The population of Quebec was slightly older than that of Canada as a whole. On July 1, 2013, 16.6% of this province's population was aged 65 and over, the highest figures west of the Atlantic provinces, while its median age was 41.6 years. This province’s median age has risen by 11.1 years since 1983, an increase slightly higher than for Canada as a whole. Quebec has continual interprovincial migration losses and a fertility rate that until recently was below the national average.


On July 1, 2013, the median age of the population of Ontario was 40.3 years, while the proportion of the population aged 65 and over was 15.2%. Since 1983, this province's median age has risen by 9.3 years, an increase slightly lower than for Canada as a whole. However, since 2006, due to losses in interprovincial migration, the median age of Ontario’s population increased by 1.9 years compared to 1.3 for Canada as a whole.


On July 1, 2013, 14.4% of the population of Manitoba was aged 65 and over and its median age was estimated at 37.7 years. On the other hand, 18.7% of this province's population was 0 to 14 years of age, the highest proportion for a province after Saskatchewan. Manitoba has had the lowest median age since 1983 (7.5 years) because of a fertility rate above the national average.


On July 1, 2013, Saskatchewan had the largest proportion of persons aged 0 to 14 of any province (18.8%). Also, 14.4% of this province's population was aged 65 and over and its median age was estimated at 37.1 years. The median age in Saskatchewan was down 0.2 years from the previous year. This situation is due to having the highest fertility of all the provinces and net international migration that has increased substantially in the past few years.


Among the provinces, Alberta had the youngest population on July 1, 2013. Its median age was 36.0 years, while its proportion of persons aged 65 years and over was estimated at 11.2%, with both these figures being the smallest for any province. Moreover, Alberta had the highest proportion of working-age persons of any province (70.6%). Alberta is characterized by high fertility and major gains from interprovincial and international migration.

During the year 2012/2013, Alberta distinguished itself from the other provinces with a demographic growth almost three times higher than the national average. This increase was strongest among the population aged 30 to 44 years, for men and women. The growth of Alberta’s population at these ages was 5.2% compared to 1.1% nationally. This was mostly due to Alberta’s significant gains in interprovincial and international migration that were concentrated in large part at these ages.

The favourable economic context of Alberta can explain in large part this province’s important gains in international and interprovincial migration, which contributed to the working-age population growth. The oil and gas industry has led Alberta’s economic growth and job creation, which has translated into a marked increase in the demand for workers. In 2012/2013, Alberta’s employment and job vacancy rates were among the highest in the country 7  . The continued economic boom has also generated growth in a number of energy related sectors, service industries and other sectors of the economy in Alberta.

British Columbia

On July 1, 2013, the median age of British Columbia's population was 41.7 years, while the proportion of persons aged 65 and over was estimated at 16.4%, with both these figures being the highest west of Quebec. This situation is due to lower fertility and longer life expectancy.


On July 1, 2013, Yukon was the place in Canada with the largest proportion of working-age persons (73.4%). This territory also had highest median age (38.9 years) and the largest proportion of persons aged 65 and over (9.9%) of the three territories. Yukon stands out from the other two territories in that its fertility rate is closer to the national average.

Northwest Territories

The Northwest Territories had the youngest population after Nunavut. Approximately one person in five (21.1%) living in this territory was under 15 years of age, while only six persons in 100 (6.1%) were aged 65 and over. The median age of the Northwest Territories population was estimated at 32.4 years. This territory has a fertility rate much higher than the national average, surpassed only by that of Nunavut.


Nunavut has the youngest population in Canada. The median age of Nunavut's population (25.4 years) and its proportion of persons aged 65 and over (3.5%) are by far the lowest in Canada. Furthermore, 30.8% of the population of Nunavut is under 15 years of age, a proportion almost twice the national average. Nunavut has the highest fertility in Canada, approximately two times higher than the national average. In addition, this territory posts the lowest life expectancy of the country.

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