Seniors Are Canada’s Fastest Growing Age Group, Census Shows

May 30, 2012 Updated: October 1, 2015
New census data shows that Canada now has more seniors than ever before, a situation that will present many challenges for the country in the coming decades. (Jeanette Zehentmayer/Photos.com)

OTTAWA—New census data shows that Canada now has more seniors than ever before, with the number of people aged 65 and over catching up with the number of children 14 and under in the last 40 years.

The latest batch of data from the 2011 census released by Statistics Canada shows that last year, there were nearly 5 million Canadians aged 65 and over, representing a record high of 14.8 percent of the population, up from 13.7 percent in the 2006 census.

This proportion, among the lowest compared to other G8 nations, comes at the expense of Canada’s population aged 14 and under, whose proportion fell from 17.7 percent of the total population to 16.7 percent between 2006 and 2011.

Canada’s below-replacement level fertility rate over the past 40 years is responsible for this development. Another reason is the increase in life expectancy. For instance, in 2011 there were 5,825 centenarians, up from 4,635 in 2006 and 3,795 in 2001, making this the fastest-growing age group after the 60-to-64 group.

Nevertheless, the population of Canadians aged 4 and under experienced its fastest growth since the baby boom (the period of time spanning 1946 to 1965). It increased by 11 percent between 2006 and 2011 as a result of slightly higher fertility levels and a higher number of women aged 20 to 34.

Working-age Population Remains High

Despite the aging of Canada’s population, the country’s working-age population remained a large proportion of the total population. Those aged 15 to 64 comprised 68.5 percent of the overall population, making it the second highest working-age proportion in G8 countries after Russia.

The lowest was that of Japan, at 63.5 percent, while that of all European G8 countries sat below 66 percent.

Canada’s good showing in that segment of the population is largely due to a record-high number of people aged 45 to 64 still in the workforce. They currently comprise 42.4 percent of workers, a huge increase compared to 28.6 percent in the 1991 census.

However, the first baby boomers, those born in 1946, reached the age of 65 in 2011. This suggests that the ratio of Canada’s working-age population in relation to the total population will decrease.

Provincial Imbalances

While the proportion of seniors in relation to youngsters grew in every province except Saskatchewan from 2006 to 2011, the pace of growth varied greatly across the country.

Population aging in the four Atlantic provinces and Quebec was particularly noticeable. The proportion of seniors (65 and over) was between 16 and 16.6 percent in the Atlantic and 15.9 percent in Quebec, higher than the national percentage of 14.8 percent.

At the opposite end, Alberta had the lowest proportion of seniors at 11.1 percent. The three territories also had a proportion significantly below the national average. These differences are due to different fertility and immigration levels and interprovincial migration.

Migration to Alberta, in particular, was the main reason that province had the highest working-age population in relation to the total provincial population: 70.1 percent.

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