Some facts about the demographic and ethnocultural composition of the population
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- The age and sex structure of Canada's population has changed considerably in the past fifty years. Whereas in the mid-twentieth century, the population distribution was pyramidal owing to the large number of young people, by 2006 the population structure ceased to resemble a pyramid. This transformation is the result of the drop in fertility and the steady increase in life expectancy. The bulge in the age structure at mid-height represents the large cohorts of the baby-boom.
- These changes reflect the aging that has taken place in Canada over the past fifty years. Between 1956 and 2006, the median age of the Canadian population went from 27.2 to 38.8 years, a gain of more than 10 years over a span of fifty years. By 2056, the median age is expected to reach 46.9 years, or 20 years more than it was in 1956.
A historic reversal: proportionally more seniors than children toward 2015
- In 2006, 17% of Canada's population consisted of young people under 15 years of age, 69% of persons aged 15 to 64 years, and 13% of persons aged 65 years and over. The most recent population projections show that toward the middle of the 2010 decade, the proportion of elderly might exceed the proportion of children, a historic first. Owing to population aging, and especially the arrival of baby-boomers at age 65, the proportion of elderly could reach double that of children toward the middle of the twenty-first century.
- Over the next fifty years, it is also expected that the group consisting of persons aged 15 to 64 years (potential workers) will represent a proportion of the Canadian population similar to what it was in the early 1960s, in the range of 60%. This is ten percentage points below the current level.
Figure 22 Proportion of the population aged 0 to 14 years, 15 to 64 years and 65 years and over in Canada, 1956 to 2056
Drop in the number of working-age persons per elderly person
- The demographic dependency ratio for seniors in 2006 was just over 5 persons aged 15 to 64 years for each person aged 65 years and over. This ratio gives an approximation of how many elderly persons there are in relation to the potential pool of workers.
- During the third quarter of the twentieth century, there were almost 8 adults between 15 and 64 years of age in Canada for each person aged 65 years or over. However, during the last twenty-five years, the ratio has gradually declined substantially to its current level.
- This downward trend could continue into the future, according to recent population projections. Regardless of the scenario selected, those projections show a continuation of the decline of this indicator of population aging. According to the projections (medium growth scenario), in 2056 there would be only 2.2 working-age persons for each person aged 65 years or over.
Figure 23 Number of persons aged 15 to 64 years for each person aged 65 years and over in Canada, 1956 to 2056
By the start of the next decade, people old enough to leave the labour market will outnumber those old enough to join it
- Within the 15 to 64 years age group, some major changes have occurred in recent decades. When the large cohorts of the baby-boom reached age 15 between 1961 and 1981, they greatly contributed to the rejuvenation of the 15 to 64 years age group. In the mid-1970s, persons aged 15 to 24 years were 2.4 times more numerous as those aged 55 to 64 years. Consequently, in that period, the ratio of potential entrants to the labour market to potential leavers was at its highest.
- With the aging of the baby-boomers, there has been a decrease in the ratio of young adults to persons on the threshold of retirement. In 2006, that ratio was approximately 1.2, or half of what it was thirty years earlier.
- This trend is expected to continue in the coming years. According to the most recent population projections, this ratio should fall below one in 2013, meaning that the number of persons aged 55 to 64 years would start to exceed the number of persons aged 15 to 24 years.
Figure 24 Number of persons aged 15 to 24 years for each person aged 55 to 64 years in Canada, 1956 to 2056
The working-age population is aging
- The number of persons aged 45 to 64 years as a percentage of the 15 to 64 age group is an indicator of the aging of the working-age population.
- Since the first baby-boomers reached age 45, the proportion of persons aged 45 to 64 years within the 15 to 64 population has begun to increase rapidly. Whereas in the late 1980s, people aged 45 to 64 years comprised approximately 28% of the working-age population, they comprised 38% in 2006.
- According to the most recent population projections, this indicator could reach more than 42% by the mid-2010s and then stabilize above 40% until 2056.
Figure 25 Proportion of persons aged 45 to 64 years in the working-age population (15 to 64 years) in Canada, 1956 to 2056
Canada is one of the youngest industrialized countries
- Canada has proportionally fewer seniors and more young people in its population than the Europe 15 and Japan, while the reverse is true in relation to the United States. The world population, like that of Mexico, has a much larger proportion of young people than Canada, along with a smaller proportion of elderly.
- However, the size of the baby-boom that Canada experienced following World War II should contribute to more rapid aging of the population in Canada than in other industrialized countries.
Figure 26 Distribution by three large age groups of the world population and selected countries, 2005
In 2017, more than one Canadian in five might be foreign-born
- Strong immigration to Canada in recent decades has led to a rise in the number of foreign-born persons and the portion of the population that they represent. Thus, from 1986 to 2006, the immigrant population went from 3.9 million to 6.2 million, accounting for respectively 15.6% and 19.8.% of the Canadian population.
- If current immigration trends were to continue in the coming years, the proportion of immigrants in Canada could reach slightly over 22% by 2017. This would be equal to the highest level observed since the beginning of the last century, namely the 22% recorded between 1911 and 1931.
- Few countries have a larger proportion of foreign-born than Canada. In the United States, for example, the proportion of foreign-born was 12.5% in 2006. However, Australia stands out, with immigrants comprising 22.2% of its population.
In 2017, approximately 20% of the Canadian population might belong to a visible minority group
- Primarily because of sustained immigration and the low percentage of Europeans among newcomers, the visible minority population in Canada has soared in the past two decades. Between 1981 and 2001, the number of persons belonging to a visible minority group almost quadrupled, from 1.1 million to approximately 4.0 million. This growth, much faster than that of the rest of the population, boosted the proportion of the population that visible minorities represent from less than 5% in 1981 to more than 13% in 2001.
- Under the reference scenario of the most recent projections of visible minorities, this increase will continue in the coming years, with the result that in 2017, the visible minority population would reach 7.1 million, representing approximately one Canadian in five.
The largest visible minority groups are the Chinese and South Asians
- In the 2001 Census, the Chinese population numbered more than 1 million, making this visible minority group the largest in Canada. South Asians and the black population ranked respectively second and third with 941,000 and 671,000 individuals.
- Under the reference scenario in the latest projections of visible minority population, South Asians and Chinese would continue to be the two largest visible minority groups in 2017, with a population of just over 1.8 million each. With almost as high an immigration level as the Chinese but with a higher fertility rate, the South Asian group would thus catch up with the Chinese group in absolute numbers.
- Nevertheless, the visible minority groups that might increase the most rapidly between now and 2017 are West Asians, Koreans and Arabs, with their populations increasing by 150%, 120% and 118% respectively.
Aboriginal population in Canada is close to 1.2 million
- Between 1996 and 2006, the population reporting Aboriginal identity grew by 45%, to reach close to 1.2 million persons, representing 3.8% of the Canadian population. The rest of the population grew more slowly (8%) during the same period.
- Compared to some other countries, the relative weight of the Aboriginal population in 2006 was smaller in Canada than in New Zealand but larger than in the United States or Australia.
60% of Aboriginals living in Canada are North American Indians
- In 2006, North American Indians were the largest Aboriginal group in Canada with roughly 698,000 persons, representing 60% of the population who declared an Aboriginal identity. Among the other groups, there were 390,000 Métis and 50,000 Inuits.
- In general, Aboriginal persons are seeing their numbers increase more rapidly than the rest of Canada's population, partly owing to high fertility. In 2001, the total fertility rate was 3.4 children per woman for Inuit and 2.9 and 2.2 children per woman for North American Indians and Métis respectively. It was about 1.5 in the rest of the population (Ram, 2004).
The proportion of Francophones in Canada declined in the second half of the twentieth century
- In the 2006 Census, more than 18 million Canadians reported having English as their mother tongue, equivalent to 58% of the population. The second largest group consisted of those with French as their mother tongue, with 6.9 million people, comprising 22.1% of the population. Canada also had some 6.3 million people (20.1%) with a mother tongue other than English or French.
- Canada's demolinguistic profile in the early 2000s differs considerably from what it was in the middle of the last century. In 1951, the proportion of Canadians with French as their mother tongue (29%) was 6 percentage points higher than it is today. Also, only 12% of individuals enumerated in 1951 had a mother tongue other than English or French, which is lower than the current proportion.
- This downward trend in the proportion of Francophones and the increase in the percentage of Canadians with a mother tongue other than English or French is mainly due to sustained immigration coming from countries whose mother tongue is neither English nor French, the disappearance of higher fertility among Francophones and the linguistic mobility of Francophones toward English.
17% of Canadians are capable of conducting a conversation in either English or French
- In 2006, the vast majority (98%) of Canadians knew enough of one of the two official languages (English and French) to conduct a conversation. Two-thirds (68%) of the population knew only English while 13% knew only French. The proportion of bilingual Canadians, that is, who are capable of conducting a conversation in either English or French, was 17% according to the 2006 Census. It was 12% in 1951.
- Non-official languages for which we found in 2006 the highest number of speakers were Chinese (known by 3.9% of the population), Spanish (2.4%), Italian (2.1%), German (2.0%), Penjabi (1.5%) and Arabic (1.2%).
English-French bilingualism is more widespread in official language minorities
- The proportion of Canadians capable to conduct a conversation in either English or French (bilinguals) varies greatly according to the place of residence. For those living in a linguistic minority situation such as Francophones outside Quebec and Anglophones in Quebec, bilingualism is more widespread than for those living in a majority situation, regardless of their age.
- In general, the Francophone population is comprised of more bilingual persons than the Anglophone population. This difference refers to the fact that Francophones have more opportunity to use English, for example, at work.
- Bilingualism also varies according to age, which can be explained in part by the way people learn their second language. Among Francophones living in Quebec, the bilingualism rate reaches a maximum between 20 and 29 years of age, as many of these individuals learn intensively English as they are entering the labor force. Among Anglophones living in other provinces and territories, the bilingualism rate reaches a maximum earlier, between 15 and 19 years of age. Most of these teenagers learn French during school, therefore bilingualism is at a maximum upon leaving high school (Marmen and Corbeil, 2004).
Figure 34 Proportion of bilingual persons (French and English) by linguistic group (French or English mother tongue, single response) by age in Canada, 2006
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