Statistics Canada
Symbol of the Government of Canada

2006 Census: Age and sex

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.

The Daily

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Statistics Canada today releases data from the 2006 Census covering age and sex. A detailed analysis of how the nation's population age structure is changing is available in the online report Portrait of the Canadian Population in 2006, by Age and Sex, 2006 Census.

Data from the census show large-scale changes in the age distribution of Canada's population as a result of population aging. The two main factors behind the population aging are the nation's low fertility rate and increasing life expectancy.

Data from the 2006 Census showed that the number of seniors aged 65 years and over surpassed the 4-million mark for the first time.

As a result, the proportion of senior citizens has increased from 13.0% in 2001 to 13.7% in 2006. This increase in the proportion of seniors was observed at the national level as well as in every province, territory and census metropolitan area (CMA) in the country.

At the same time, the working-age population (15 to 64 years) is becoming increasingly older. The number of people approaching the age of retirement has hit a record high.

The fastest growing age group between 2001 and 2006 consisted of individuals aged 55 to 64 who are nearing retirement. The census counted nearly 3.7 million in this age group, an increase of 28.1% from 2001. This rate of growth was more than five times the national average of 5.4%.

Data also showed that there are barely enough young people entering the working age group to replace those approaching the age of retirement. Between 2001 and 2006, the population aged 15 to 24 increased by only 5.3%.

In the 1970s, for every person aged 55 to 64 years, there were 2.3 individuals in the 15 to 24 years age group. By 2001, this ratio had fallen to 1.4, and in 2006, it was down to 1.1. This means that for each person leaving the working age group, there was just over one individual entering it.

Note to readers

Two indicators of the population age structure have been used in this analysis: 1) the proportion of people aged 65 and over and 2) the proportion of children aged 14 and under.

A population will be considered as older than another one when its proportion of senior citizens is higher. A population will be considered as younger if its proportion of children is higher.

The use of these two indicators may lead to different results than those that would be obtained using other indicators of a population age structure, such as median age.

Population projections show that in about 10 years, Canada may have more people at the age where they can leave the labour force than at the age where they can begin working. This presents considerable challenges for Canadian employers and for society in general.

The rapid expansion in the number of older people (55 to 64 years) among the working age population is due to the fact that the first baby-boomers entered this age group in 2001.

Baby-boomers, that is, people who were born between 1946 and 1965, comprised 30% of Canadians in 2006. They are the largest cohort in Canada. In fact, 40 years ago, in 1966, baby-boomers made up more than 40% of the population.

Despite this aging trend, Canada is the second youngest country in the G8 group of industrialized nations. However, it has the oldest population in the Americas.

One in seven Canadians is a senior

In 2006, the census enumerated 4,335,255 persons aged 65 years and over, an 11.5% increase from 2001. More than half (56%) were women.

One out of every seven Canadians is now a senior citizen. In 2006, they accounted for a record high of 13.7% of the total population, up from 13.0% in 2001. This was nearly double the proportion of 7.7% in 1956.

In contrast, the number of children aged 14 and under declined 2.5% from 2001 to 5,579,840 in 2006. This was the second consecutive intercensal period in which this age group declined.

Children aged 14 and under accounted for 17.7% of the population in 2006, their lowest share ever in Canada. This was down from 19.1% in 2001 and well below the proportion in 1961, at the height of the baby-boom period, when one person in three was aged 14 and under.

According to the most recent population projections, seniors could outnumber children aged 14 and under within about 10 years. The growth of the elderly population will start accelerating in 2011, when the first baby-boomers turn age 65.

The census counted 21,697,805 individuals in the working-age population (aged 15 to 64), up 6.4% from 2001. In 2006, they accounted for just over two-thirds (68.6%) of the total population, up slightly from 68.0% in 2001.

Low fertility rate and increasing life expectancy are the main factors behind population aging

Two factors are largely responsible for the progressive aging of Canada's population: the low fertility rate and increasing life expectancy.

The fertility rate, which is now about 1.5 children per woman, has been below the replacement level of 2.1 since the early 1970s.

The life expectancy of Canadians increased appreciably during the 20th century and now stands at 82.5 years for women and 77.7 years for men. As a result of that increase, more Canadians are reaching the age of 65, and people are living longer after that age.

Immigration has had a significant effect on the growth and diversity of Canada's population, but its impact on population aging is minor. This is because immigrants arrive when they are about 30 years of age on average; they then age along with the rest of the population.

We're living longer: More people 80 years and over, more centenarians

The number of people aged 80 years and over surpassed the 1-million mark for the first time between 2001 and 2006, and the number of centenarians, those aged 100 and over, rose sharply.

The 2006 Census enumerated 1,167,310 people aged 80 years and over, up 25% from 2001, the second fastest increase of all age groups. This age group accounted for 26.9% of all seniors in 2006, up from 24.0% in 2001 and only 14.6% in 1956.

Of this group, 753,970, or about two-thirds, were women; they heavily outnumbered men because of their higher life expectancy.

The census also enumerated 4,635 people aged 100 years or older, up about 22% from 3,790 in 2001, and nearly 50% higher than the level of 3,125 in 1996. Five out of every six centenarians were women in 2006.

Provinces: East–West split in aging patterns still evident

As was the case in the 2001 Census, the population was generally older on average east of Ontario and younger in the West, particularly in Alberta, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut.

In every province and territory, the proportion of people aged 65 and over increased between 2001 and 2006, while the percentage of children aged 14 and under continued to decline.

The province with the highest proportion of seniors was Saskatchewan, while Alberta had the lowest proportion. Seniors accounted for 15.4% of Saskatchewan's population, well above the national average of 13.7%. In Alberta, they accounted for only 10.7% of the population.

All four Atlantic provinces had proportions of seniors that were above the national average, in sharp contrast to the situation 50 years ago when they were among the youngest provinces.

Nova Scotia was the oldest province in Atlantic Canada in 2006, with 15.1% of its residents aged 65 and over. In Newfoundland and Labrador, the proportion of children aged 14 and under declined to 15.5%, the lowest in the country.

In Quebec, seniors comprised 14.3% of the population, just above the national average. Ontario, the nation's most populous province, is also one of the youngest. Seniors accounted for only 13.6% of its population in 2006, the lowest of any province except Alberta.

British Columbia remains one of the oldest provinces due largely to the higher life expectancy observed in this province for decades. In 2006, 14.6% of its population was 65 or older, above the national average.

The region formed by the three territories combined was the youngest in Canada. Only 1 person in 20 was aged 65 years or over on average. The relative youth of the territories was due primarily to two factors: the high fertility rate, particularly among the Inuit population, and lower life expectancy.

In terms of the male–female ratio, Alberta was the only province in 2006 that had more men than women. For every 100 women, there were 100.2 men in Alberta. Nationally, there were 95.9 men for every 100 women.

Large urban centres: Kelowna the oldest, Barrie the youngest

According to the 2006 Census, the proportion of seniors aged 65 years and over in 2006 rose in all 33 CMAs. In contrast, the proportion of children aged 14 and under decreased in all CMAs.

The percentage of seniors ranged from just 9.4% of the population in Calgary to 19.0% of the population in Kelowna. Kelowna was the oldest CMA in the country, based on the proportion of seniors in its population.

Peterborough was the second oldest CMA, followed by Victoria, St. Catharines–Niagara and Trois-Rivières.

Edmonton showed the second lowest proportion of senior citizens of the 33 CMAs. Over the last 10 years, Calgary and Edmonton have enjoyed an economic boom that has attracted workers from other parts of Canada. This internal migration has probably helped to dampen the growth of the proportion that represents the elderly population in Alberta's two major urban centres.

The result is an age structure in Calgary and Edmonton with a high proportion of people aged between 20 and 44. As this age group is in its major child bearing years, the 2006 Census counted in these two urban centres a higher proportion of children compared with other CMAs.

In 2006, the youngest CMA was Barrie, where 20.8% of the population was aged 14 and under, well above the national average of 17.7%. In all, 9 of the 16 youngest CMAs in Canada were located in southern Ontario.

Parksville, Elliot Lake the oldest mid-size urban centres

In addition to 33 CMAs, Canada has 111 mid-sized urban centres (census agglomerations). These are centres that have an urban core with a population of at least 10,000, but are not a CMA.

Data showed that the two mid-sized urban centres of Parksville (British Columbia), a community of 10,993 on Vancouver Island, and Elliot Lake, a northern Ontario municipality of 11,549, were by far the oldest in Canada. In both, roughly one person in three was 65 years and older.

In addition, Parksville had the highest proportion (10.2%) in the country of people aged 80 and over.

The youngest mid-sized urban centre was Thompson, where more than one person in four was aged 14 and under. The small northern Manitoba town, which had a population of 13,593, includes a large Aboriginal community. Aboriginal people generally have a higher fertility rate.

2006 Census sub-module

Also released today are various products and services available from the 2006 Census sub-module on our website. By clicking on the Release topics and dates link, then on Age and sex, users will find the 2006 Census data for the age and sex of the Canadian population. Information on this web page is organized into three broad categories: Data products, Analysis series, and Geography.

The Data products category presents age and sex data for a wide range of standard geographic areas. Data is available through the Age and sex highlight tables, the Topic-based tabulations, the Profile release components, the 2006 Community Profiles and the Census tract profiles.

The Analysis series category presents the age and sex analytical perspective report Portrait of the Canadian Population in 2006, by Age and Sex, 2006 Census, which includes animated pyramids and vignette.

The Geography category presents thematic maps containing age and sex data for standard geographic areas of Canada. By using GeoSearch2006, an interactive mapping tool, users will find any place in Canada as well as a corresponding map of the place with its population count. A large collection of supplementary geography reference material and maps are also available.

Definitions, data sources and methods: survey number 3901.

For more information, contact Media Relations (613-951-4636), Communications and Library Services Division.