Analysis

A. Change in births

In 2009, there were 380,863 live births registered in Canada, a slight increase of 2,977 from 2008. While the number of births continued to grow, the upward trend slowed down from the annual increase of 2.7% in 2008 to 0.8% in 2009 (Chart 1).

Over the past 20 years, Canada has seen both upward and downward trends in the number of births. After peaking in 1990 at 405,486 births, the number of births fell steadily throughout the 1990s. In 2000, there were 327,882 registered births, the lowest level since the end of the Second World War. With the exception of 2002, there has been an upward trend in the number of births since 2001 and the first sign of slowing down was observed in 2008 which continued in 2009.

A.1. Geographic differences

In 2009, Quebec, Alberta and British Columbia were the top three contributors to the increase in the total number of births in Canada. Nunavut had the largest relative increase of 8.9% (Table 1).

From 2008 to 2009, the gain in the number of births from most regions had offset the loss from other regions. However it slowed down the upward trend of births in Canada in recent years. While the number of births increased in six provinces and two territories, it decreased in Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Ontario and Northwest Territories. Quebec had the largest rise in the number of births and Ontario had the largest decline. Nunavut presented the largest relative increase in births and Nova Scotia the largest relative decrease.

B. Change in fertility

The total fertility rate (TFR) is the sum of single-year, age-specific fertility rates during a given year. It represents the average number of children that a woman would have if the current age-specific fertility rates prevail over her reproductive period.

In 2009, the TFR was 1.67 children per woman, down 0.8% from 2008 (Table 2). For the first time since 2002 the TFR went down.

This rate was below the generational replacement level of 2.1 children per woman—the fertility rate that must be maintained to replace the population in the absence of migration. The last year that the total fertility rate exceeded the generational replacement level was 1971. 1 

In the past twenty years, the TFR has closely paralleled the trend in number of births (Chart 1). After peaking in 1990 at 1.71 children per woman, the TFR fell throughout the 1990s and then began climbing at the beginning of the 2000s. The drop in the TFR (and the number of births) in 2000 and the recovery in 2001 may have been related to the desire to have a baby in the first year of the new millennium. The number of marriages also increased in 2000. 2 

In 2009, Nunavut continued to have the highest fertility in the country, with a TFR of 3.24 children per woman, the only region ensuring the generational replacement level. Two regions presented the TFR close to the replacement level: Saskatchewan and Northwest Territories (Table 2).

In contrast, Nova Scotia and British Columbia had the lowest TFR in Canada. Other provinces and territories with a TFR lower than the national average of 1.67 children per woman were Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick, Ontario and Yukon.

From 2008 to 2009, the TFR rose in three provinces and two territories (Newfoundland and Labrador, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Yukon and Nunavut). The TFR of New Brunswick remained unchanged followed by a slight decrease in Quebec, while the TFR in all other regions declined.

In 2009, Nunavut experienced the largest relative increase in the TFR and Nova Scotia the largest relative decline followed by Prince Edward Island.

B.1. Age-specific fertility rate

From 1989 to 2009, there have been significant changes in the trend of age-specific fertility rates in Canada. The past twenty years saw an overall decline in the total fertility rate of Canadian women in their twenties, while that of women in their thirties increased steadily (Chart 2).

From 2008 to 2009, while the age-specific fertility rate of Canadian women decreased for younger age groups, it increased in the two older age groups: 35 to 39 and 40 to 44 years. The highest rise occurred for women aged 40 to 44, from 8.4 births per 1,000 women to 9.2. The fertility rate of women aged 40 to 44 increased about 2.5 times in the last 20 years, from 3.7 per 1,000 women in 1989 to 9.2 in 2009.

However, for the fifth consecutive year, the highest fertility rate continued to be among women aged 30 to 34 (107 births per 1,000 women). The gap in fertility rates between age 20 to 24 and age 35 to 39 narrowed further to 0.6 per 1,000 women in 2009.

The fertility rate of women aged 15 to 19 was 24.6 births per 1,000 women in 1989, it decreased to its lowest point in 2005 (13.4 per 1,000) and has increased slightly in recent years. In 2009, their fertility rate was 14.2 births per 1,000 women.

B.2. Geographic differences of age-specific fertility rate

In 2009, among the 10 provinces 3 , Saskatchewan had the highest fertility rate for women aged less than 30 years: 34.3 live births per 1,000 women aged 15 to 19, 89.3 per 1,000 women aged 20 to 24 and 137.3 per 1,000 women aged 25 to 29. The highest fertility rate for women aged 30 to 34 was in Alberta (114.8 per 1,000) and for those aged 35 to 39 and 40 to 44 was in British Columbia (54.5 and 10.6 per 1,000 women respectively).

B.3 Age-specific fertility rate of first-time mothers

The first-time mothers 4  have also delayed their childbearing. However, the shift from younger to older age of childbearing for first-time mothers was less pronounced than that of all mothers, particularly for those aged 30 to 34 (Chart 3).

From 1999 to 2009, while the age-specific fertility rate of women younger than 25 years declined, the rate of those aged 30 years and older went up. The fertility rates of women who were first-time mothers also showed the same trend as that of all mothers.

However, during this ten-year period, the modal age of fertility of first-time mothers were still in the 25 to 29 age group in 2009, while the modal age of fertility for all mothers had shifted from those aged 25 to 29 to 30 to 34.

B.4 Analysing 2009 fertility rates

Two factors could account for the change in the number of births in recent years: the number of women at childbearing age and the fertility rates.

By applying age-specific fertility rates (ASFRs) for 2008 to the female population in 2009, it is possible to estimate how much of the increase in births in 2009 can be attributed to changes in the size of the female population compared with changes in fertility rates (Table 3).

If there had been no change in age-specific fertility rates from 2008 to 2009, the expected number of births in 2009 would have been 383,244, or 5,358 more births than in 2008. In fact, from 2008 to 2009, there was an increase of only 2,977 births. The gap of 2,381 births can therefore be attributed to decreases in fertility. The largest decrease in fertility rate between 2008 and 2009 was found in women aged 20 to 29.

C. Historical and recent birth trends

The period from the end of the Second World War to the mid-1960s witnessed a dramatic increase in the fertility rates, the result of which was the baby boom phenomenon.

In 1947, when the TFR was 3.6 children per woman—the highest rate since 1921 5 —the number of births totalled 372,600 and the crude birth rate was 28.9 births per 1,000 population.

At the height of the baby boom in 1959, when the TFR was 3.9 children per woman, annual births exceeded 479,000, the highest number recorded since comparable Canada-wide vital statistics were first compiled in 1921 (Chart 4).

The annual number of births remained high for a few more years, and then dropped sharply starting in 1964. This period of low numbers of births, known as the baby bust, 6  lasted for approximately 10 years until the mid-1970s, reaching its lowest level in 1973.

The first baby boom "echo" 7  was expected in the mid-1970s, approximately 25 years after the beginning of the baby boom. But while there was a sizable increase in the number of births in 1974 and 1975, gains in the following years were relatively modest. Only in the late 1980s (1988 to 1990) was there a substantial rise in the number of births.

From 1988 to 1995, Canada experienced a large number of births. Specifically, births peaked at 405,486 in 1990. Thereafter, annual births dropped, falling to 327,882 in 2000, which was less than the lowest number in the baby bust period.

Between 2002 and 2009, Canada has seen a continuous upward trend in the number of births. Part of the recent increase in births could be explained by the fact that many women from the baby boomer's children's generation have now entered their childbearing years, as well as by the increase in fertility rates. Total fertility rate increased from 1.50 children per woman in 2002 to 1.68 in 2008. However, in 2009, for the first time since 2002, the fertility of Canadian women showed a decrease from the previous year down to 1.67 children per woman.

D. Comparison with selected low-fertility countries

A low-fertility country is one in which the total fertility rate (TFR) is below or near the generational replacement level (2.1 children per woman). Low fertility is a phenomenon that Canada shares with many countries. Moreover, the recent rise in the number of births in Canada parallels trends in several other low-fertility OECD countries, which have also experienced an upturn in fertility in recent years and a downturn between 2008 and 2009 (Table 4).

From 2005 to 2008, the TFR had an increasing trend in the 15 selected OECD countries (Table 4). In Canada, the increase in fertility was modest until 2006, whereas in 2007, there was a surge which subsequently slowed. United States was the only country that showed a decrease from 2007 to 2008.

From 2008 to 2009, more than half of the selected OECD countries saw their fertility decline. The United States had the largest decline of TFR (0.08 children per woman). Among those six countries that had a rise in fertility, Iceland had the largest increase of TFR (0.08 children per woman).

E. Change in stillbirths

The number of stillbirths (or fetal deaths) in Canada was 2,734 in 2009, a decrease of 40 stillbirths (1.4%) from 2008.

The stillbirth rate also went down from 7.3 per 1,000 total births (live births and stillbirths) in 2008 to 7.1 in 2009. From 1991 to 2006, stillbirth rates fluctuated at around 6.0 per 1,000 total births. However, the late stillbirth rate (fetal deaths at 28 or more weeks of gestation) peaked at 3.8 per 1,000 total births in 1992 and then decreased to 3.0 in 2009.