Census report shows seniors outnumber children in Canada


For the first time in Canada’s history there are now more people over 65 than under 15. A Statistics Canada (StatsCan) report on the 2021 Census shows that the senior population is growing six times faster than children (0 to 14 years) and the country’s workforce (persons aged 15 to 64) is older than before. 

The aging of many baby boom cohorts—the youngest of whom are between 56 and 64 years today—is accelerating population aging in general, according to census data.

More than 1 in 5 persons (21.8%) in the workforce is close to retirement (aged 55 to 64). This proportion represents an all-time high in the history of Canadian censuses which is one of the factors behind the labour shortages facing some industries across the country, a StatsCan report on the census said. 

From 2016 to 2021, the number of persons aged 65 and older rose 18.3% to 7.0 million. This is the second largest increase in 75 years, after the increase observed from 2011 to 2016 (+20.0%). This demographic is a growing economic and politically influential group. They are staying healthier, active, and involved for longer. The 7 million people aged 65 and older in 2021 represent nearly 1 in 5 Canadians (19.0%), up from 16.9% in 2016. 

The number of persons aged 85 and older has doubled since 2001, reaching 861,000 in 2021. According to population projections, this number could triple by 2046.

On the other hand, the number of children under the age of 15 grew at a pace six times slower than the number of people aged 65 and older from 2016 to 2021, to total 6.0 million.

StatsCan says, these demographic shifts are due to low fertility (the total fertility rate at fewer than two children per woman for nearly 50 years), the gradual increase in life expectancy, and the fact that the large baby boom generation (born between 1946 and 1965) started turning 65 in 2011.

The proportion of the population aged 65 and older grew the fastest in Newfoundland and Labrador (+4.2 percentage points). Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta are the only provinces in the country where children under the age of 15 still outnumber persons aged 65 and older.

Although immigration has a rejuvenating effect on the Canadian population, this effect is not enough to stop the population aging process, the report pointed out.

Small and large urban centres have younger populations on average; they have a lower proportion of persons 65 years and older (18.2%) than areas outside these centres (23.2%), data showed.

Working-age people—those aged 15 to 64—account for three-quarters of the population of downtowns, a much higher proportion than the national average (64.8%).

More than 4 in 5 people living in downtown Calgary, Halifax and Toronto are aged 15 to 64.

The COVID-19 pandemic slowed population growth in all age groups. However, it has not had a significant impact on population aging.

While aging, Canada still has one of the youngest populations among the G7 countries, after the United States and the United Kingdom. In Canada, the population aged 15 to 64 still represents a larger share of the total population (64.8%) than in the other G7 countries, particularly Japan (less than 60%). The proportion for the United States is very close to Canada’s.

This StatsCan report also presents an analysis of the types of dwellings in which Canadians live. The different types of dwellings reflect the realities of a population that is getting older, becoming more diverse, and more urban.

The number of apartments located in high-rise apartment buildings increased more than twice as fast (+14.7%) as the total number of private dwellings (+6.4%) from 2016 to 2021.

Apartments located in high-rises represent just over 3 in 10 dwellings (30.7%) in the large urban centre of Toronto, the highest percentage in the country.


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