The greying of Canada’s population is accelerating, as new census numbers show seniors now outnumber children for the first time in the country’s history.
The 2016 census from Statistics Canada, released Wednesday, shows the largest increase in the share of seniors since Confederation. The proportion of those age 65 and older climbed to 16.9 per cent of Canada’s population, exceeding the share of those under 15 years old at 16.6 per cent.
Meantime, the portion of the working-age population – those between the ages of 15 and 64 – declined to 66.5 per cent from 68.5 per cent in the 2011 census.
The latest batch of census data – on age, sex and dwelling type – also shows rapid increases in Canadians who are over the age of 100 and fewer Canadians are living in single detached homes, the result of declining affordability and older people moving into smaller living spaces. It shows the territories and the Prairies have the youngest populations, while the Atlantic provinces have the highest share of seniors in the country.
Across Canada, the increase in the share of seniors since the last 2011 census “was the largest observed since 1871 – a clear sign that Canada’s population is aging at a faster pace,” Statistics Canada said in its release Wednesday.
The accelerating pace of aging in the population carries profound implications for everything from government budgets to pensions, health care, the labour market, consumer trends and social services.
“While the greying of Canada is not new, it’s starting to have a bigger and bigger impact,” said Doug Norris, chief demographer at Environics Analytics, in an interview before the census release. This shift has big implications for businesses, he added, which will have to increasingly focus on “older, empty nester, single-person households.”
The 2016 census counted 5.9 million seniors, compared with 5.8 million children who were 14 or younger.
Looking ahead, population projections show the gap between the two age groups will widen. By 2031, almost one-in-four Canadians could be 65 or older, while the share of children would remain similar to 2016 levels, at 16 per cent, the agency said. The share of the working-age population – Canada’s tax base – will likely “continue to decrease,” Statscan said.
That rapid aging in the coming decades means the share of seniors “could eventually equal the level now seen in Japan.”
Despite the acceleration in Canada’s aging population, the country still has a lower share of seniors than in any other G7 country except the United States, Statscan said.
Most Canadians still live in single-detached homes, though that share is declining. The share of these homes fell to 53.6 per cent from 55 per cent in the previous census.
This share “has been declining over the past three decades,” the agency said, most notably in B.C.
The share of apartments in Canada rose to 33.5 per cent in 2016, up from 32.6 per cent in 2011.
More people are living in apartments – particularly in Canada’s largest cities. In Toronto, nearly three in 10 dwellings are in high-rise buildings, making it the city with the largest proportion of high-rises in the country.
Canada’s housing market has seen massive shifts in the past five years, and rapid price gains in Toronto in particular over this past year have sparked concern over a possible correction.
More people are opting for apartments as they grow older, and amid affordability concerns. Average house prices rose 35.3 per cent in the five-year period, to $489,777, according to the Canadian Real Estate Association.
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