Section 2 – Results at the Canada level, 2013 to 2063

Warning View the most recent version.

Archived Content

Information identified as archived is provided for reference, research or recordkeeping purposes. It is not subject to the Government of Canada Web Standards and has not been altered or updated since it was archived. Please "contact us" to request a format other than those available.

Skip to text

Text begins

Growth of the Canadian population from 2013 to 2063

The Canadian population has grown substantially in recent years, increasing from 30.7 million in 2000 to 35.2 million in 2013. During that period, Canada’s annual growth rate was higher than the average for OECD countries (Table 2.1). The results of the various scenarios published here show that growth would continue over the next 50 years. However, the pace of this growth would gradually slow from the beginning of the projection period. This slowing growth would continue for varying lengths of time depending on the scenario.

According to the medium-growth (M1) scenario, the Canadian population would grow steadily, increasing from 35.2 million in 2013 to 51.0 million in 2063 (Figure 2.1). From an annual growth rate of 10.2 per thousand at the start of the period (2013/2014), the rate of growth would slowly diminish and then plateau to around 6.7 per thousand by 2062/2063 (Figure 2.2), considerably lower than the average rate recorded over the past 30 years (10.9 per thousand for the period 1983 to 2013).

According to the high-growth (H) scenario, the Canadian population would almost double to 63.5 million in 2063, mainly a result of stronger immigration and fertility as well as higher life expectancy than in the medium-growth (M1) scenario. From 11.3 per thousand in 2013/2014, the annual growth rate would decrease slightly in the 2020s and the first years of the 2030s before increasing to 12.1 per thousand in 2062/2063.

The low-growth (L) scenario offers a different picture; Canada would still experience population growth, but the rate of growth would decline rapidly over the next 50 years. Under this scenario, the Canadian population would increase to 40.0 million in 2063, a growth of about 20% from its 2013 level. From an annual growth rate of 8.3 per thousand in 2013/2014, the pace of growth would decrease to 0.5 per thousand in 2062/2063.

Together, the three main population growth scenarios of the present edition contain within their bounds the values recently projected for Canada by two international agencies (the United Nations and the World Bank) (Table 2.2). Variations relate in part to the different base (or launch) years from the various sources, as well as different assumptions for the various components of population growth.

Components of population change

The components of population growth and their interaction affect not only the size of the Canadian population but also its composition, including its age structure. It is therefore useful to analyze the impacts of different components of population change when they are combined in various scenarios.

Figure 2.3 shows the projected number of births and deaths according to the low-growth, medium-growth (M1) and high-growth scenarios. Results from the medium-growth (M1) scenario show a rise in the number of births in the early years of the projection. This rise is mainly due to the increasing number of women of childbearing age within the population, as age-specific fertility rates are held almost constant. The relatively strong weight of these cohorts of women of childbearing age in the early years of the projection could be explained by several related factors: relatively high fertility rates in the 1990s, increasing immigration levels that began in the mid-1980s and the fact that many of the daughters of parents belonging to the large baby-boom cohort would be in the childbearing ages. In the middle years of the projection, the number of births generally stabilizes before increasing again around 2035/2036. This new upswing is again the result of relatively large cohorts of women of childbearing age—in this case, the cohorts born at the start of the projection period. According to the medium-growth (M1) scenario, the number of births would increase from 387,700 in 2013/2014 to 508,600 in 2062/2063.

In the high-growth scenario, the higher number of births is explained mainly by higher fertility rates, but also to some extent by higher levels of immigration. Indeed, as a large proportion of immigrants are of childbearing age, immigration has a positive and immediate impact on the number of births. In contrast, in the low-growth scenario, lower levels of immigration combined with lower fertility rates would lead to a slight decrease in the number of births compared to recently observed levels.

In comparison to births, there is relatively small variation across the projection scenarios regarding the total number of deaths. This relates to the age structure of the Canadian population (more details are presented in the following section “Age structure of the Canadian population”), as mortality patterns will closely mimic the aging process of the baby-boom cohort. The number of deaths will increase steadily until approximately 2055/2056, when the baby‑boom cohort will reach older ages and begin to extinguish in large numbers. In the remaining years of the projection, the total number of deaths will generally stabilize.

Natural increase is the difference between births and deaths, and its change over time is determined by the intensity of fertility and mortality as well as the age structure of the Canadian population. Levels of natural increase would decrease in the coming years according to all projection scenarios, mainly due to the rise in the number of deaths (Figure 2.4). While natural increase remains positive under the high-growth scenario, it becomes close to zero around 2050 in the medium-growth scenario (M1) and becomes negative from 2030/2031 onward under the low-growth scenario. Several countries have already registered negative natural increase in recent years, including the Russian Federation, Italy, Germany and Japan.Note 1

For most of the 20th century, natural increase was the main driver of population growth in Canada. However, in the middle of the 1990s, a shift occurred when immigration increased while fertility remained relatively unchanged. As a result, migratory increase (the balance of immigration minus emigration) has been the main source of population growth in Canada for the last two decades. In 2012/2013, migratory increase accounted for just over two‑thirds of population growth (67.7%) while natural increase accounted for the remaining 32.3% of growth.

Migratory increase would continue to be the key factor behind Canada’s population growth in the coming years according to all projection scenarios (Figure 2.4). However, its importance would vary from one scenario to the next: in 2062/2063, migration would account for 90.8% of total population growth in the medium-growth (M1) scenario, all population growth in the low-growth scenario and 65.2% of total population growth in the high-growth scenario.

Table 2.3 displays the individual contributions of births, deaths, immigration, emigration and non-permanent residents to the growth of the Canadian population in various observed and projected periods. Over the past 40 years, declines in the crude rate of natural increase were driven mainly by steady declines in the crude birth rate, as the crude death rate was in comparison quite stable. In addition, the contribution of international migration to population growth has amplified since the 1990s, driven by a steady increase in the crude rate of immigration.

The next 50 years could evolve differently, however. In the low-growth and the medium-growth (M1) scenarios, the annual crude growth rate declines significantly, before a slight upswing towards the end of the projection period. This decrease would be mostly a result of the increase in crude death rates in the first four decades of the projection, related to the aging of the baby-boom cohort. The same phenomenon also affects the high-growth scenario, though less strongly than in the low and medium-growth scenarios. This occurs due to a combination of lower age-specific death rates with higher rates of net international migration and births; as a result, annual growth rates remain close to those observed before the projection.

Age structure of the Canadian population

Along with the size of the population, the age structure of the population has important consequences for society and the evolution of population change. For example, the age structure of a population often affects the economy, as high proportions of working-age people, or small demographic dependency ratios, are thought to have beneficial effects which have sometimes been referred to as the “demographic dividend”.Note 2 Beyond the size of the working-age population, the composition of the remainder of the population also has important impacts on society, notably on public expenditures.

Population aging has emerged as a defining demographic trend in most industrialized countries such as Canada. The proportion of the population aged 65 and over has been slowly increasing since the early 20th century, a result of decreases in mortality as well as fertility (Figure 2.5). Projection results show that population aging in Canada will continue over the coming decades. According to all projection scenarios, the proportion of the population aged 65 and over will continue at an accelerated pace over the next two decades in particular: just as the baby‑boom cohort temporarily interrupted population aging in the 1950s and 1960s, this cohort will accelerate the phenomenon in the next two decades in particular. By 2030 (the year when the youngest baby boomers turn 65), the proportion of the total population aged 65 and over would increase to between 22.2% (scenario H) and 23.6% (scenario L), from 15.3% in 2013. This proportion would continue to increase in the remaining years of the projections, but at a slower pace, reaching between 23.8% (Scenario H) and 27.8% (scenario L) by 2063.

Another indicator of the aging of Canada’s population is the increase in the median age. Between 1921 and 2013, the median age increased about 16 years, from 23.9 to 40.2 years. The three projection scenarios adopted indicate that the median age would continue to increase steadily at least until 2035. Later in the projection period, the median age of the population would continue to rise slightly in the low-growth scenario, would decrease slightly in the high-growth scenario and would stabilize in the medium-growth (M1) scenario, reflecting in large part the various fertility assumptions across scenarios. According to the projection scenarios, the median age of the Canadian population would fall between 41.7 and 46.5 years in 2063 (Figure 2.6).

The age structure of the population is also often examined in terms of its impact on the balance between the working-age and other portions of the population. The presence of the large cohort of baby boomers in the age group 15 to 64 years resulted in a sustained period—from about the mid-1970s to present—in which the proportion of the population that was working-age was relatively high. Indeed, Canada has benefited in recent years from a relatively low level of demographic dependence: in 2011, Canada’s demographic dependency ratio was 44.5, considerably lower than the average of OECD countries (50.2) and the average among G7 countries (51.5) in the same year.Note 3

In 2013, Canada’s demographic dependency ratio increased to 45.9. Specifically, there were 23.5 children (aged 14 years and under) and 22.3 seniors (aged 65 years and over) per 100 working-age persons. According to all projection scenarios, Canada’s demographic dependency ratio would increase rapidly up to 2030 as the baby-boom cohort gradually exits the 15 to 64 age group and enters the 65 and over age group (Figure 2.7). According to the medium-growth (M1) scenario, there would be 26.3 children and 43.4 seniors per 100 working-age persons in 2063, summing to a total demographic dependency ratio of 69.7—the lowest ratio of all the scenarios (the highest being 71.6 under scenario L).

Notably, in all projection scenarios, total demographic dependency in 2063 would not drastically exceed that experienced early in the 20th century (Table 2.4). However, the composition of the ratio would have changed markedly: in 1921, seniors accounted for just over 12% of the non-working age population, compared to between 57.7% (scenario H) and 66.6% (scenario L) in 2063.

According to the medium-growth scenario (M1), in 2060, both Canada’s senior demographic dependency ratio and its median age (Table 2.5) would fall below the average projected for other developed countries according to the United Nations’ World Population Prospects, but still higher than what would be observed, for example, in the United States, Sweden and the Russian Federation.

An evolving population pyramid

The population pyramid is a graphical representation of a population’s structure by age and sex. The pyramids for 2013 (in number and proportion, Figure 2.8) highlight the sizeable demographic weight of the baby-boom generation, whose members were aged 48 to 67 that year.

In the pyramid expressed in absolute numbers, it can be seen that according to the medium-growth (M1) and high-growth scenarios, the base of the population pyramid in 2063 would be broader than it was in 2013. This broadening is a result of an increase in the number of births, reflecting in part a slight increase in the total fertility rate, the effects of which are magnified by sustained immigration. In comparison, under the low-growth scenario, the base of the population pyramid would stay close to its size in 2013 while the top of the pyramid would become comparatively broader. Although the baby-boom cohort would be nearly extinct by 2063, the top of the pyramid would continue to broaden due to improvements in life expectancy under all scenarios.

In the pyramid expressed in terms of proportion, the degree of population aging and the manner in which it is occurring can be more clearly viewed. In all scenarios, the population aged 65 and over accounts for a larger share of the total population in 2063 compared to 2013. In the low and medium (M1)-growth scenarios, population aging is also evident at the bottom of the pyramid, as the population aged 14 and under would represent a smaller share of the total population than in 2013.

Pyramids can also be used to examine and compare the age pattern of deaths in the population (Figure 2.9). According to all scenarios, the age at which the highest number of deaths occurs (the modal age of deaths) among males in Canada would increase from 85 years in 2011 to 91 years in 2062/2063. Increases would be similar for females, with the modal age of deaths rising from 89 years in 2011 to between 91 years (scenario L) and 93 years (scenario H) in 2062/2063.

A closer look at the senior population

In 2013, Canada had 5.4 million seniors (persons aged 65 years and over), more than triple the number recorded fifty years earlier in 1963. The growth of this group would accelerate in the coming years as the large baby-boom cohort gradually occupies these ages. By 2063, the number of seniors would more than double, ranging between 11.1 million and 15.1 million depending on the scenario (Figure 2.10). Seniors, who accounted for 15.3% of Canada’s population in 2013, would rapidly increase in share under all projection scenarios, reaching between 23.8% and 27.8% in 2063, depending on the scenario.

According to the low-growth and medium-growth scenarios, 2015 represents an important milestone in the history of the Canadian population: for the first time, the number of seniors would exceed the number of children; this would occur one year later, in 2016, according to the high-growth scenario. This trend would accentuate over the course of the projection: by 2063, seniors would outnumber children 2 to 1 according to the low-growth scenario, 1.7 to 1 according to the medium-growth (M1) scenario and 1.4 to 1 according to the high-growth scenario.

Older seniors and centenarians

Older seniors (persons aged 80 and over) have been steadily increasing as a share of the total Canadian population over time. In 2013, the Canadian population had 1.4 million persons aged 80 and over, more than five times as many as 50 years earlier in 1963. The members of the baby-boom cohort will enter this age group between the years 2026 and 2045.  This phenomenon, and to a lesser extent, the anticipated gradual increase in life expectancy, cause the number of persons aged 80 and over to increase rapidly during this period in all scenarios, reaching between 4.0 million (scenario L) and 4.9 million (scenario H) by 2045 (Figure 2.11). In the subsequent years, the population in this age group continues to increase, but at a much slower pace: by 2063, the number of persons aged 80 and over would be between 4.2 million (scenario L) and 6.0 million (scenario H).

Older seniors would represent a growing share of the total population between 2026 and 2045. This share will peak in 2046 as per the medium and high-growth scenarios, reaching 9.7% and 9.6%, respectively. In contrast, in the low-growth scenario—where relatively lower fertility leads to a decrease in the share of children in the population—older seniors continue to increase as a proportion of the total population after 2046, reaching 10.6% by 2063. Older seniors would also represent a growing share of the total population of seniors aged 65 and over between 2026 and 2045. From 26.6% in 2013, this share peaks in 2046 in all scenarios, reaching between 39.1% (scenario L) and 40.9% (scenario H) before declining slightly in the subsequent years of the projection.

For a number of decades, senior women have outnumbered senior men considerably in Canada, a result of a pattern of higher male mortality at all ages which emerged in mid-20th century and peaked in the late 1970s. In 2013, the sex ratio among older seniors was 61 males per 100 females (Figure 2.12). According to all projection scenarios, this ratio would increase further, to about 83 males per 100 females by 2063. This increased ratio in future years would be mainly due to the continued gradual reduction of the mortality gap between the sexes.

Within the senior population, the number of centenarians—persons aged 100 years and over—will also increase in the coming years. From about 6,900 in 2013, the number of centenarians living in Canada could multiply nine times to 62,200 in 2063 according to the medium-growth (M1) scenario. However, this group would still represent a very small portion of all seniors in Canada (less than 1% according to all projection scenarios). The sex composition of centenarians would also evolve considerably over the next 50 years, owing to faster improvements in mortality among males compared to females: there would be 41 male centenarians per 100 female centenarians in 2063 according to the medium-growth (M1) scenario, up from 15 in 2013.


Date modified: