Problems for the public sector from Canada's population projections

0 1900 Market Intelligence

Alex Carrick

Alex Carrick is Chief Economist for Reed Construction Data. He specializes in economic forecasting and statistical services.


Statistics Canada recently released its projections of Canada/'s population out to 2036. The demographic shifts make for fascinating reading. Perhaps the most significant statistics can be found in the dependency ratios. These have tremendous implications for the public sector’s capacity to fund pension plans and medical care.

The following are some of the highlights from Statistics Canada’s recent population projections report.

The demographics of the country have been projected out to 2036 by the federal government’s official statistical agency based on low-, medium- and high-population growth scenarios.

Population growth is determined by natural increase (births minus deaths) and net international migration (immigrants minus emigrants).

By 2036, Canada’s population will range between 40.1 million and 47.7 million. The nation’s population as of July 1, 2009 was 33.6 million.

According to the medium-growth scenario, the level of immigration is likely to shift upward from around 250,000 individuals per year currently to 333,000 in 2036.

The level of immigration is important for the birth rate, since most new arrivals are in their child-bearing years.

Immigrants notwithstanding, it will be an older population by 2036. That’s because all of the post-World War II baby boomers (born 1946 to 1966) will have progressed past the age of 65 by 2031.

The median age for the nation as a whole will rise to between 42 and 45 years of age in 2036 from 39.5 at present. The median age is the cutoff point at which half the population is older and half younger.

By 2036, the number of seniors (aged 65 and beyond) in the country is expected to double to between 10 and 11 million from 4.7 million in 2009. The number of seniors will surpass the number of children (aged 14 or less) sometime between 2015 and 2021.

Seniors will account for between 23% and 25% of the total population by 2036 versus their current 13.9%.

The percentage of the population at large made up of working-age individuals (15 to 64) will drop from 70% to 60%.

Perhaps the most significant statistics can be found in the dependency ratios. These have tremendous implications for the public sector’s capacity to fund pension plans and medical care.

Between now and 2036, the number of children for every 100 people in the working-age population will increase only slightly from 24 to 26.

However, the number of seniors to every 100 people in the working-age population will shoot up from 20 to 39.

Looking at this from the flip side, there are currently five working-age individuals to every one senior in the country. By 2036, that ratio will drop to two-and-a-half to one.

Ontario and British Columbia will be the only two provinces where their average annual population growth rates will exceed Canada’s as a whole. Net immigration will play a key role in this trend as will the fertility rates of the current ethnic mixes in the respective provinces.

Ontario’s population will grow from 13.1 million in 2009 to between 16.1 and 19.4 million by 2036. B.C. will move up from 4.5 million to between 5.8 and 7.1 million.

The four Atlantic provinces will have the oldest populations according to median ages. At the top of the maturity-scale will be the citizens of Newfoundland and Labrador.

The median age will be lower than the national average in Ontario, Manitoba and Alberta.

Among all provinces, Manitoba will have the youngest age demographic in 2036.

However, the Yukon and Northwest Territories will be even younger.

Alex Carrick

Find Canadian construction-related economic articles in Canadian Construction Market News and in the Economic Outlook section of Daily Commercial News. Mr. Carrick also has a lifestyle blog that can be reached by clicking here.

by Alex Carrick

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