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Population and demography

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Canada had the fastest growth among the G8 nations from 2001 to 2006: our population rose 5.2%. The United States ranked second, with a 5.0% growth. On July 1, 2007, Canada’s population had reached 33.0 million, 2.0 million more people than in 2001.

Two-thirds of Canada’s population growth is due to international migration: an average of 240,000 newcomers have arrived each year since 2001. By contrast, 60% of the population growth in the United States stems from natural increase—that is, more births than deaths. Births in the United States averaged 2.0 children per woman over the last few years, the highest of the G8; Canadian women have an average of 1.5 children.

Canada extends across a vast territory of nearly 10 million square kilometres and has 3.5 people per square kilometre. However, in the country’s large census metropolitan areas (CMAs), population density reaches, on average, 238 inhabitants per square kilometre. Most of these CMAs are located in the southern part of the country. Vast northern areas are sparsely populated: the Northwest Territories, Yukon and Nunavut makes up 39% of Canada’s total area but had only 0.3% of its population in 2007.

Growth is uneven across the country

Two-thirds of Canada’s population growth from 2001 to 2006 was concentrated in Alberta and Ontario.

Alberta is enjoying an economic boom, and its population grew 10% from 2001 to 2006, making it the fastest-growing province in the country. On July 1, 2007, 3.5 million people lived in Alberta and the province made up 11% of the Canadian population.

Gains from migration from the rest of Canada are still the main component of growth. Natural increase in Alberta, which is relatively higher than in other provinces, is generating growth, too; immigration, to a lesser degree, is also a contributing factor.

Ontario is Canada’s most populous province. In 2007, Ontario had 12.8 million people and the province made up 39% of the Canadian population. From 2001 to 2006, half of the country’s population growth was in Ontario.

During 2006/2007, however, Ontario saw a net loss of 36,200 people who left for other regions, and the province welcomed 17,600 fewer immigrants than the previous year. The province’s slower population growth in 2006/2007 was the weakest on record since 1980/1981.

Quebec, the second most populous province, had a population of 7.7 million people on July 1, 2007, and had 23% of the Canadian population. In 1971, 28% of the Canadian population lived in Quebec.

From 2001 to 2006, Quebec’s population grew 3%—three times faster than during the period from 1996 to 2001. This was the second highest growth since the end of the baby boom in the mid-1960s. This upswing is due to an increase in international migration and to smaller losses in migration exchanges with other provinces.

Quebec’s population growth was slower during 2006/2007 than in the previous year, despite the gains in births and immigrants.

Population fluctuations

The populations in Saskatchewan and in Newfoundland and Labrador continued to decline from 2001 to 2006.

From 2001 to 2006, the former had a 1% population decline, while the latter saw its population fall 2%. This decline continued until June 30, 2006 in Saskatchewan and until June 30, 2007 in Newfoundland and Labrador.

From July 1, 2006, to October 1, 2007, Saskatchewan’s population grew to one million. The population of Newfoundland and Labrador was estimated at 507,500 at October 1, 2007, up 1,200 people from July 1, 2007.

In 2007, the total population of the three territories, that is, the Northwest Territories, Yukon and Nunavut, surpassed 100,000. In all three territories, natural increase is usually the main growth factor.

An increasingly urban population

According to the 2006 Census, 68% of Canadians live in one of the country’s 33 CMAs. Moreover, 45% of Canada’s population lives in the six largest CMAs: Toronto, Montréal, Vancouver, Ottawa–Gatineau, Calgary and Edmonton. From 2001 to 2006, two-thirds of the population growth was in one of these six CMAs.

Almost 90% of the growth in population took place in Canada’s 33 CMAs. In the CMAs, this growth was 7%, whereas the growth was 4% in mid-size urban centres and 1% in small towns and rural regions.

From 2001 to 2006, some mid-size urban centres posted growth rates of more than 10%, twice as high as the rate for all of Canada. For example, Okotoks, Alberta, south of Calgary, grew 47%. Elsewhere in Alberta, Wood Buffalo’s population, which includes Fort McMurray, grew 24%; Red Deer, 22%; Grande Prairie, 22%; and Lloydminster, 13%. Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, also grew 13% from 2001 to 2006.

An aging population

Canada may be one of the youngest G8 countries, but its population is aging considerably. Mainly, this is a result of decreasing fertility rates and longer life expectancy. On July 1, 2007, the median age among Canadians was 39 years, an increase compared with 26 years in 1971.

In 2007, the number of people aged 65 and older reached 4.4 million, an increase from 2001. Seniors made up 13% of the population as a whole, a proportion that has risen progressively over the years. In 1971, the proportion of seniors was 8%.

The proportion of children under the age of 15 has continued to decline; it was 17% in 2007, compared with 29% in 1971.

According to recent population projections, Canada could soon have more people at the age where they can leave the labour force than people at the age where they can begin working.

These rapid changes present many challenges for Canadian employers and for society as a whole: a high turnover rate in labour, knowledge transfer, employee retention, health among older workers and continuing education for employees, for example.

A slight baby boom

During 2006/2007, there were 352,800 births recorded in Canada. The number of births had declined throughout the 1990s, until it reached about 327,100 in 2000/2001, its lowest level since the end of the Second World War. Since then, the number of births has increased every year.

Quebec and Alberta had the largest increase in births from 2005/2006 to 2006/2007. During this period, the number of births increased 6% in Quebec and 4% in Alberta. This was the most births in Alberta since 1983/1984.