A new Statistics Canada report says Canada is aging and it will continue to depend on high immigration levels to renew its population.
Statistics Canada has released its projections for Canada’s population growth spanning the next 47 years. The report states that by 2068, in a medium growth scenario, Canada’s population could reach up to 57 million people, largely driven by increased immigration.
During this period between 2016 and 2021, Canada experienced a boom in population growth and the population increased at a rate twice the speed of all other G7 countries. While this slowed through 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Canada saw a rebound in population growth in the first quarter of 2022 as it welcomed the highest number of new immigrants in a first quarter since 1990.
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Immigration Levels Plan
To help maintain its population at a sustainable level, Canada’s Immigration Levels Plan has a target of over 450,000 new permanent residents a year by 2024, the highest number in its history.
Canada relies heavily on immigration to support the economy. The largest demographic of working age Canadians, baby boomers, is quickly reaching the retirement age of 65. By 2030, it is expected that nine million Canadians will have retired.
The Maritimes, Quebec, and BC to see population growth
Increasing the number of immigrants means, even in a low growth scenario, some provinces can expect to see population growth. The Maritime provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island, and Quebec and British Colombia are likely to benefit from the increased number of immigrants over the next several years. However, the report says that in all scenarios, Newfoundland and Labrador will continue to see a population decrease.
Canada’s Labour Shortage
As part of the report, Statistics Canada mentions there is currently facing a labour shortage as the unemployment rate stands at a historic 4.9% with over one million job vacancies. To combat the effects of the shortage, the report states there are some Canadians who would like to see a more ambitious Immigration Levels Plan. However, others believe this needs to be tempered alongside the current shortage of affordable housing and infrastructure concerns.
The population is aging
The most report states the average age of Canadians was 41 years old. By 2068, it is expected that the median age in Canada will increase to 45 years old and the number if Canadian’s over 85 will triple from the current 871,000 to 3.2 million. Canadians over 65, and therefore retired, will account for 26% of Canada’s population. Bearing this in mind, Statistics Canada estimates that even with increased immigration, an aging population is unavoidable over the coming 50 years.
When combined with an increasing mortality rate, Statistics Canada projects that even in a medium-growth scenario the birth rate may become negative between 2049 and 2058. Put another way, this means that for nearly a decade, Canada can expect more deaths than births.
Canada is working to attract young talent
Even with high immigration targets, one of the biggest difficulties over the coming years will be increasing the number of youth in the population. The rate of natural population growth (births minus deaths) in Canada is expected to further decline as there is historically low birth rate among Canadian couples, with the number of children per woman at only 1.4. in 2020.
The most recent Annual Demographic Estimates report says there was a higher proportion of younger, working-age Canadians among new immigrants, interprovincial migrants, and non-permanent residents. In fact, the majority of non-permanent residents in 2021 were between 18-34 years old.
Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) strives to attract younger newcomers and keep them in Canada. For example, Canada’s Express Entry system offers maximum age points in the Comprehensive Ranking System to candidates between 20-29 years old. Canada’s immigration programs also reward those who have Canadian experience, such as international graduates, who tend to be younger in age.