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|Population Projections for Canada, Provinces and Territories
Section III : Results
Growth of the Canadian population
Between 36 and 42 million Canadians in 2031
Chart 3.1 presents population figures for Canada up to 2056 according to the projection scenarios selected. It shows that Canada’s population should continue to grow between now and 2056 under five of the six projection scenarios analyzed. 1According to the four medium-growth scenarios (scenarios 2 to 5), which differ only in their assumptions concerning interprovincial migration patterns, Canada’s population will increase from 32.3 million in 2005 to about 39.0 million in 2031 and about 42.5 million in 2056. For comparison, Canada had a population of 24.8 million in 1981.
The high-growth scenario’s assumptions of higher fertility, higher immigration and higher life expectancy boost the Canadian population to 41.8 million in 2031 and 49.7 million in 2056. This is double the size of the population in the early 1980s.
Only the low-growth scenario fails to generate a continuous increase in the number of Canadians between now and 2056. According to that scenario, Canada’s population will climb to 36.3 million in 2031, peak at 36.6 million in 2039 and then decline to 35.9 million in 2056.
These results represent an upward revision from the last projection exercise (Statistics Canada, 2001). The medium-growth scenario in the latter exercise projected a population of 36.8 million in 2031, about 6% less than the 2031 population according to the four medium-growth scenarios in the present projections. This difference is mostly due to a higher immigration assumption, since in the current projections, we assume that the immigration rate– and not the number of immigrants, as was the case in the past – will remain steady through 2031. 2
Slower population growth
One implication of the above results is that the rate of population growth will remain positive between now and 2056 in all scenarios except low-growth scenario 1, in which it will fall below zero in 2039. This is evident in chart 3.2 , which shows the annual rates of change in the Canadian population between 1981 and 2056.
On the other hand, the figure also shows that in five of the six projection scenarios, there will be a virtually uninterrupted slowdown in population growth between now and 2056. Under the medium-growth scenarios (2 to 5), the growth rate drops from 8.6 per thousand in 2005 to just under 5.5 per thousand in 2031 and then to about 2.4 per thousand by the middle of the century. Although 2.4 per thousand is lower than the average annual growth rate over the last 10 years, it would still be higher than the rate actually observed in a number of other G8 countries (Germany, Russia, Italy, Japan) (Statistics Canada, 2005).
The slowdown would be more pronounced under low-growth scenario 1,
as the annual growth rate would be less than 2.0 per thousand in 2031,
crossing the zero threshold in 2039 and reaching
High-growth scenario 6 would result initially in an increase in the growth rate to 10.7 per thousand by 2016. After that, the rate would start to decline, dropping to 5.8 per thousand by the beginning of the second half of the century.
Natural increase will soon be negative
The total population growth conceals two opposing trends: falling natural increase and rising international net migration, at least until 2031. According to all the scenarios used in these projections, the population growth due to the difference between the number of births and the number of deaths will become negative between now and 2056 (chart 3.3 ). If the number of children per woman decreases to 1.3 and life expectancy at birth increases more slowly (scenario 1), deaths will outnumber births by 2020. If fertility remains steady at its current level and the average lifespan increases moderately (scenarios 2 to 5), that event will occur about 10 years later. With an increase in the total fertility rate to 1.7 children per woman and a sharper gain in life expectancy (scenario 6), the number of births would not fall below the number of deaths until 2046. It is worth noting that deaths already outnumber births in some industrialized countries, such as Germany and Italy (Statistics Canada, 2005).
The point at which natural increase becomes negative depends more on the birth rate than on the death rate, as is evident in chart 3.4 , which shows the number of births and deaths under high-, medium- and low-growth projections. The number of deaths, between 465,000 and 494,000 in 2055-2056, is much the same in all the scenarios and cannot account for the 26-year difference between the low-growth and high-growth scenarios in the time at which their natural increase becomes negative. The differences in number of births between the various scenarios are much larger and explain far more of the observed gap. There are just over half as many births in 2055-2056 under the low-growth scenario (256,000) as under the high-growth scenario (480,000). Natural increase is affected not only by the birth and death rates but also, indirectly, by immigration, since immigrants also contribute to the numbers of births and deaths.
International net migration is the only growth factor
According to five of the six projection scenarios, Canada’s international net migration will increase between now and 2031. Compared with its 2005-2006 level of 183,000, its 2031 level will be 150,000 in the low-growth scenario, about 223,000 in the medium-growth scenarios, and 305,000 in the high-growth scenario (Text table 3.1 ). After 2031, the figures remain more or less unchanged since the immigration assumptions are that the numbers of immigrants will stay the same through 2056.
Text table 3.1
International net migration will become particularly important when deaths exceed births, as it will be Canada’s only source of population growth. Under the projection scenarios considered, international net migration could slow and eventually halt the population decline that could result from fertility being below the replacement level for an extended period, as has been the case in Canada for three decades. In 2004, about two thirds of total population growth was due to international immigration.
Age structure of the Canadian population
Having begun in the last century, the aging of the Canadian population will continue in the coming decades under the combined effect of persistent low fertility and declining mortality. However, this population aging will begin to accelerate in 2011, exacerbated until 2031 as individuals belonging to the large baby-boom cohorts reach age 65. As this section will show, no projection scenario reverses this trend, which is inevitable since it is already inherent in the age structure of the Canadian population. The intensity of the phenomenon varies depending on the scenario and the province or territory considered.
A changing age pyramid
The age pyramid of a population is a graphic representation of its age-sex distribution. In 2005, Canada’s age pyramid still had a fairly large base even though it was shrinking as a result of persistent low fertility over three decades (figure 3.1 ). It also clearly showed the effects of the baby-boom, since a high concentration of individuals were then between 40 and 60 years of age, the prime period of occupational activity.
In 2031, according to the medium-growth scenarios, the base of the pyramid would be narrower than previously while the upper section would have widened considerably as a result of declining mortality and the movement of baby-boomers into the higher ages (65 to 85 years). While less imposing than in 2005, the working age population would still be fairly large, owing to the presence of the baby-boomers’ children and the contribution of immigration. And lastly, the pyramid would reflect the effect of the fertility assumption, which, at 1.5 children per woman, would be well below the replacement level; the base of the pyramid would therefore steadily narrow. This gradual shrinkage would be even more evident in the 2056 pyramid, once again according to the medium-growth scenarios. The upper section (65 years and over) of the pyramid would then be much larger than its base, and at the centre of the pyramid, the working age population would be smaller, especially between the ages of 20 and 35 years. (see figures 3.1 , 3.2 and 3.3 )
Elderly would outnumber children starting in 2015
Children (ages 0 to 14) and elderly persons (65 years and over) numbered respectively 5.7 million and 4.2 million in 2005, resulting in a ratio of 135 children per 100 elderly (Chart 3.5 ). In all the projection scenarios, the number of elderly would exceed the number of children by around 2015. In 2031, the number of persons aged 65 years and over would range between 8.9 million and 9.4 million, depending on the scenario, and the number of children would range between 4.8 million and 6.6 million. The corresponding ratio of children to elderly would then range between 54 and 71 children per 100 elderly persons in Canada, with a ratio of 62 under the medium-growth scenario. This would be the first time in the history of the Canadian population that elderly people would outnumber children, a situation which is projected to persist unless the fertility rate begins to rise again.
Population aging will accelerate
Between 1981 and 2005, the proportion of elderly persons in Canada grew from 10% to 13% (Chart 3.6 ). In all the projection scenarios, the proportion of elderly would increase more rapidly in the coming decades, reaching between 23% and 25% in 2031 and between 25% and 30% in 2056. In the middle-growth scenarios, the elderly would account for 23% of the population in 2031 and 27% in 2056. The proportion of elderly would thus be destined to almost double in the next 25 years. None of the scenarios calls for a reversal of the trend toward the aging of the Canadian population, which seems inevitable because of the lower fertility rate of the last three decades, a reduction in mortality and the fact that the large baby-boom cohorts will soon be reaching age 65.
The median age of the Canadian population would also continue to rise in all the projection scenarios. It would go from 39 years in 2005 to a level between 43 and 46 years in 2031 and between 45 and 50 years in 2056 (Chart 3.7 ). According to the medium-growth scenarios, half the Canadian population would be over 47 years of age in 2056.
Compared to most of the other G8 countries, Canada in 2005 had a relatively young age structure, but one that was destined to age more rapidly than elsewhere. Like in other Anglo-Saxon countries such as Australia, the postwar baby-boom was especially pronounced in Canada and the persons born during this period had not yet, in 2005, reached age 65. Not until 2011 will the first baby-boomers reach that age, and those that follow will accelerate the aging of the Canadian population.
Evolution of the working age population
In 2005, the working age population (aged 15 to 64 years) numbered 22.4 million (Chart 3.8 ), representing approximately 70% of the total population (Chart 3.6 ). The future evolution of this subpopulation—crucially important since it largely determines the size of the labour force—varies depending on the projection scenario considered.
According to the medium-growth scenarios, the working age population would increase until the early 2020s but at a slower pace, primarily because individuals belonging to the baby-boom cohorts would be moving beyond it. The working age population would reach 24.2 million in 2021 before slightly declining between 2022 and 2029 (by approximately 50,000 persons over the period) as the number of person leaving this population temporarily exceeds the number entering it. This is because the largest baby-boom cohorts (individuals born around 1960) would then reach age 65. Once all the baby-boomers were within the 65 years and over group, the working age population would begin growing again, reaching a maximum of 25.2 million in 2054.
According to the low-growth scenario, the working age population would increase until 2017, reaching a maximum of 23.7 million. It would then gradually decline, so that in 2056 it would stand at 21.1 million, a lower figure than in 2005. This must be seen as the long-term consequence of a very low fertility rate (1.3 children per woman in this scenario) and low immigration (an immigration rate of 5.5 per thousand).
In the high-growth scenario, the working age population would increase steadily throughout the projection period, reaching a maximum of 29.6 million in 2056. However, this growth would be moderated during the 2020s as the largest baby-boom cohorts move beyond working age.
In all the projection scenarios, the proportion represented by the working age population would gradually decline during the 2010s and 2020s, amounting to approximately 62% of the total population by the early 2030s (chart 3.6 ). It would then stabilize at a level close to 60%. The lack of differences from one scenario to another may be explained by the combination of fertility and immigration assumptions that evolve in the same direction. Scenario 1, for example, combines low fertility (which has the effect of reducing the number of children) with low immigration (which mainly limits the number of persons aged 15 to 64 years).
All the projection scenarios also lead to a slight aging of the working age population. In 2005, the proportion of older workers (aged 45 to 64 years) within this subpopulation was 38%. In all the scenarios, it would rise rapidly—starting in 2011—to 41%, then stabilize at about that level until 2031 and subsequently rise to approximately 45% in 2056 in the low-growth scenario. This is because most of the aging of the working age population has already occurred, since the majority of baby-boomers were already 45 years or older in 2005.
A rising demographic dependency ratio
In all the projection scenarios, the demographic dependency ratio, reflecting the number of children aged 0 to 14 years and elderly persons aged 65 years and over per 100 persons of working age (15-64) would increase rapidly between 2011 and 2031, mainly because of baby-boomers reaching age 65 and not being replaced in the working age population by cohorts at least as large (Chart 3.9 ). There were approximately 44 children and elderly per 100 working age persons in 2005; in all the scenarios, this ratio would be approximately 61 per 100 in 2031 and 69 per 100 in 2056.
The very old
The number and proportion of the older seniors (persons aged 80 years and over) increases sharply in all the projection scenarios (Chart 3.10 ). There were 1.1 million older seniors in Canada in 2005, representing 3.5% of the total population. In all the scenarios, their number would more than double by 2031, ranging between 2.3 and 2.6 million at that time. Older seniors will then account for between 6.1% and 6.5% of the total Canadian population. In 2056, the number of older seniors will range between 3.9 and 4.6 million, representing between 9.3% and 10.8% of the Canadian population. The rapid increase between 2026 and 2046 is mainly attributable to the large baby-boom cohorts reaching age 80, although the increase in the average length of life also plays a major role, with life expectancy rising by an average of approximately seven years during the projection period.
The sex ratio for the very old population is the ratio of the number of women aged 80 years and over to the number of men of the same age. Because male mortality is higher at all ages, this ratio has been well above 100 for many decades, and in 1999 it stood at 194 women aged 80 years and over for every 100 men. It has since decreased because of a reduction in mortality gaps between the sexes, and in 2005 it was 184. In all the projection scenarios developed, this downward trend would continue, suggesting that the imbalance between the sexes would continue to diminish. The ratio will be approximately 146 women per 100 men in 2031 and approximately 138 in 2056.
Growth of the provincial and territorial populations 3
The projection results are more uncertain at the provincial/territorial level than at the national level because of interprovincial migration, which has been highly volatile in the past. Interprovincial migration plays a key role in the growth and distribution of regional populations. Consequently, four different interprovincial migration assumptions were used in these projections. The data in text tables 3.2 and 3.3 and charts 3.11 , 3.12 , 3.13 and 3.14 illustrate the importance of interprovincial migration, since the scenarios that are most and least favourable for population growth in each province or territory are not always the high-growth and low-growth scenarios (scenarios 6 and 1), but in some cases medium-growth scenarios with particularly favourable or unfavourable interprovincial migration assumptions.
Text table 3.2
Text table 3.3
Under the scenarios used in these projections, only five provinces/territories are likely to have a smaller population in 2031 than their estimated population in 2005: Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick, Saskatchewan, Northwest Territories and Yukon. This would only be the case under certain scenarios (in the high-growth scenario, every province would have a larger population in 2031 than in 2005). The population would decrease in Newfoundland and Labrador and Saskatchewan under four of the six scenarios, in New Brunswick under three scenarios, in Yukon under two scenarios, and in the Northwest Territories under just one scenario. In all other provinces, the projected population in 2031 would be larger than the observed population in 2005 according to all six scenarios.
However, the growth rate would vary from province to province and, for each province, from scenario to scenario. Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia and the Northwest Territories are the only provinces/territory with more than one scenario in which the projected average annual growth exceeds the growth rate for Canada as a whole between now and 2031. For Manitoba, Saskatchewan and all of Eastern Canada including Quebec, the growth rate would be below the Canadian average during that period under every scenario.
As a result, under those scenarios, Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia and the Northwest Territories would see an increase in their share of the total population between now and 2031 (Text table 3.4 ). Ontario’s population would be between 14.8 and 17.5 million in 2031, more than 40% of Canada’s population in every scenario, compared with less than 39% in 2005. Alberta’s population, 3.3 million in 2005, would break the 4 million barrier in 2031, increasing the province’s share of the national population, which was 10% in 2005. With a population in excess of 5 million or even 6 million (under scenario 4) in 2031, compared with 4.3 million in 2005, British Columbia would account for 14% or 16% of the Canadian population.
With a population of 7.8 to 8.9 million in 2031, Quebec would see its share of the total population fall from 23.5% to 21.6% at best. Despite its slow population growth, it would remain Canada’s second-largest province in terms of population. Between 2.3 and 2.5 million people, or between 5.9% and 6.4% of Canadians, would be living in one of the four Atlantic provinces in 2031, compared with 2.3 million, or 7.3% of the population, in 2005. Manitoba and Saskatchewan too would have a slightly smaller share of the national population in 2031, about 3.5% compared with 3.6% in 2005 for Manitoba, and roughly 2.5% compared with 3.1% for Saskatchewan.
Text table 3.4
Provincial and territorial age structure
The age structure at the national level sometimes masks sizable provincial and territorial differences, which are most often generated by quite different fertility and interprovincial migration rates.
Text table 3.5 shows the median age in the provinces and territories according to the six scenarios. Newfoundland and Labrador (40.5 years) was the oldest province in Canada in 2005 and Alberta (35.5 years) was the youngest, disregarding the special situation of the Northwest Territories (30.7 years) and Nunavut (23.0 years). The gap between these two provinces was therefore 5 years. This gap would increase in all the scenarios developed and would range between 7.2 years (scenario 4) and 11.3 years (scenario 5) in 2031, mainly owing to the cumulative long-term effect of fertility, immigration and interprovincial migration varying widely from one province to another.
Overall, the Maritime provinces would be the oldest provinces in Canada in 2031 and the Prairie provinces would be the youngest, regardless of the scenario selected. As in 2005, Newfoundland and Labrador would be the oldest province in Canada, with a median age of between 49.2 (scenario 6) and 52.9 years (scenario 5) in 2031. On the other hand and excluding Northwest Territories and Nunavut, Manitoba would be the youngest with a median age between 40.8 (scenario 6) and 43.1 years (scenario 1). However, for each of the provinces, the median age varies depending on the scenario selected. Generally, the low-growth scenario yields the highest median age, except in the case of Newfoundland and Labrador and Yukon, where the highest median age is obtained in scenarios 5 and 2 respectively. Conversely, while the high-growth scenario generally generates the lowest median age, this is not the case for Saskatchewan (scenario 5) or Yukon (scenario 4). These differences are attributable to interprovincial migration assumptions, which are sometimes either more unfavourable or more favourable to these provinces in the other scenarios than in the low- and high-growth scenarios.
Text table 3.6 shows provincial/territorial variations in the proportion of persons aged 65 years and over. Here again, the differences between provinces would grow in the future, with scenario 5 generating a maximum difference of 12.2 points of percentage between Newfoundland and Labrador, where one person in three (32.8%) would be elderly, and Alberta, where the corresponding figure would be only one person in five (20.6%). Already older than Ontario, Quebec would age more rapidly, since the gap separating their proportions of elderly would widen from 1 point of percentage in 2005 to approximately 3 points of percentage in 2031. The Northwest Territories and Nunavut are also exceptions, for they would have a much younger age structure than any of the provinces or, to a lesser extent, than Yukon.
Text table 3.5
Text table 3.6
Sensitivity of the results to the projection assumptions
The size and age structure of the population in these projections were due to the combined effects of assumptions about immigration, fertility and life expectancy. But what is the specific effect of each component? To answer this question, we developed six analytic scenarios that combined, in turn, the high and low fertility, mortality and immigration assumptions with the medium assumption in all the components other than the ones whose impact we wanted to assess. We used medium-growth scenario 3 as a basis for producing the six scenarios, which differ from it in only one component. We can thus measure the effect that each assumption has on the total population and the age structure by examining the differences between scenario 3 and each analytic scenario in the projected number of Canadians and their median age (Text table 3.7 ).
The component that has the greatest impact on population size in our projection scenarios is immigration. With low immigration, Canada’s population would be 38.8 million in 2056, 7.6 million less than the 46.4 million it would be if immigration were above its current level (high immigration). The difference is smaller but still substantial between the scenario in which fertility falls to 1.3 children per woman (low fertility) and the scenario in which it rises to 1.7 (high fertility), as the population generated by the two scenarios for 2056 differs by 5.2 million. Population growth would be affected only marginally by the different levels of life expectancy considered in these projections.
On the other hand, fertility is the component most likely to slow or hasten the aging of Canada’s population between now and 2056. The scenarios that differ from the medium-growth scenario only in their assumption of an increase or a decline in fertility lead to populations whose median age in 2056 is 49.1 and 44.9 years respectively. By comparison, an increase or decrease in immigration or life expectancy relative to current levels would produce a median age that would deviate from the scenario 3 median age (46.9 years) by less than a year in 2056. In other words, the change relative to the most recent trends that would have the greatest impact on population aging between now and 2056 would be a decline in fertility. Conversely, the change that would slow the aging trend most would be an increase in fertility.
It should be noted that using other assumptions could have led to other conclusions, since the foregoing results are partly due to the fact that the relative difference between the high and low assumptions is not the same for the various components of population growth. However, it is well established in demographic literature that variations in immigration levels have a much greater effect on projected population size than on age structure, while fertility has a significant impact on both.
Text table 3.7
Quality of past projections
The last two projection reports (Statistics Canada 2001, Statistics Canada, 1994) included a brief evaluation of the quality of past projections. First, the evaluation compared the change in the total number of Canadians for population estimates subsequent to the base year of the population projections and each analytic scenario published. Second, the evaluation looked at how close the population estimates were to the age-sex distributions in the projections.
A similar evaluation of the 1993- and 2000-based projections is presented in charts 3.15 and 3.16 . Comparisons are provided for an 12-year period and a five-year period respectively. In addition, since no scenario was given preference in these projections, the results for each one were compared with the corresponding actual data.
The observed population falls outside the range of the 1993-based projection results. In this case, every scenario projected a population count higher than the actual count. This discrepancy can be attributed to a number of factors. First, because revisions in the population estimates subsequently reduced the estimated number of Canadians, the base population for the projections was slightly larger than the observed 1993 population. Second, in the early 1990s, Canada had just experienced an upturn in its total fertility rate, which reversed the steep downward trend seen in previous years. This upswing, which was immediately followed by a resumption of the downward trend in the total fertility rate (very difficult to predict, of course), led to fertility assumptions that were, overall, more optimistic than the subsequent trends. Third, the immigration assumptions were also higher than the average annual number of immigrants observed since 1993, except in the case of the low-growth scenario. Fourth, the total emigration assumption was lower than actual emigration, though this factor had only a marginal impact on the results.
In contrast, the July 1st, 2000-based projections are all lower than the population estimates, even though the base population count was higher than the revised estimates. This discrepancy is due to the fact that the projected population had more deaths and emigrants in every scenario and a smaller number of births and immigrants in two of the four scenarios than has been observed in recent years. The net number of non-permanent residents was also positive during the period, whereas the projections assumed it would be zero. Taken together, these small but convergent differences made the projected population growth rate smaller than the observed rate.
To evaluate the accuracy of the age-sex-specific projections, we compared the July 1st, 2005, population counts for scenario 2 of the 1993-based projections with the counts for the most recent population estimates (figure 3.4 ). The superimposed age pyramids show that the 12-year projection data are not too far from the estimates, except for the youngest years of age and the 30 to 50 range, in which the projected counts are slightly higher than the estimated counts. The result is a slightly younger age structure in the projections (a median age of 37.9 years) than in the estimates (a median age of 38.3 years). The immigration and fertility assumptions used in the 1993 projections account for the bulk of these differences.