June 25, 2024

Statistics Canada is projecting that Canada could be home to 63 million people by 2073.

Modeling what Statistics Canada refers to as “various projection scenarios,” data from 2023 to 2073 suggests that Canada could be home to anywhere between 47.1 to 87.2 million people in 50 years. Note: Statistics Canada clarifies that “projections are not predictions.” Additionally, the department says that its projections account for “recent trends” and “the opinions of population experts who were consulted specifically during the development of these projections.” However, the projection of 63 million is based on Statistics Canada’s medium-growth scenario (M1).

How is Canada’s population going to grow?

This projected growth of roughly 21 million* over 50 years is despite Canada’s natural population aging. *Canada’s population, led by immigration, has recently surpassed 41 million less than a year after reaching the 40 million milestone; by 2073, “older adults” (65 and older) in Canada could make up between 21.9% and 32.3% of the total population. Simultaneously, the percentage of children (0 to 14 years old) in Canada’s population is projected to decrease by 2073, according to “most” of Statistics Canada’s projection models, including the M1 scenario that produced the 63 million population figure. Due to the projected increase in older residents and the decrease in children across the country, Canada’s average age will reach between 42.6 and 50.1 in 2073. This is up from an average age of 41.6 in 2023.

Challenges for Canada’s population

The report states, “fertility has reached a record-low level in 2022, and life expectancy has decreased for three years in a row (from 2020 to 2022).” In fact, according to Statistics Canada, a collection of factors, including Canada’s aging population (as well as the country’s low fertility rate and decreasing life expectancy), may explain why Canada’s annual population growth rate is projected to drop by 0.33% over the next half-century – from an average of 1.12% across the last 30 years to 0.79% in 2072/2073 (based on M1 projections).

This means that even recent increases in Canada’s population must actively work against two strong trends that reduce the population. A lower life expectancy reduces the population at the higher end, and a lower fertility rate means Canada cannot produce the new people needed to replenish the country’s population locally. For instance, the fertility rate in 2022 was an all-time low of 1.33 births per woman. Rectifying natural reductions in the population through domestic births requires a fertility rate of 2.1 births per woman.

Furthermore (as mentioned already), another factor adds context to Canada’s natural population—an increasingly ageing population. Older populations in countries like Canada can strain Canada’s social systems, such as healthcare. These systems reduce costs to the individual by placing the majority of the burden on the working population at large—through taxes, for example.

In the context of an ageing population, this means that healthcare costs are increasing while the number of people who can bear these costs for the country at large is reduced—with fewer young people able to enter and contribute to the Canadian labour force.

The key ingredient

The above trends are combatted through a critical strategy: immigration. Immigration contributes to nearly 100% of Canada’s labour force growth—it is crucial for filling labour gaps in essential sectors and providing Canada with the young people needed to balance the country’s population demographically. In fact, the average age of Canada’s population recently fell (for the first time in 65 years) due to immigration, reducing from 40.9 to 40.6. Significantly, immigration is not a one-time solution. According to Statistics Canada, “…the effect of receiving a high number of immigrants in 2022 and 2023 on the decline of the average and median ages is temporary, as population ageing is unavoidable.” While much has been made of Canada’s ability to accept immigrants in recent months, data from Statistics Canada indicates that (if the current dynamic holds) a steady stream of new immigrants yearly is vital to the country’s economy, demography, and quality of life.

Immigrants, in turn, stand to benefit from this relationship. Not only can newcomers (permanent and temporary residents alike) benefit from a higher standard of living in a multicultural and immigrant-friendly society, but Statistics Canada data also reveals that (depending on how early they arrive in Canada) newcomers tend to out-earn the natural-born Canadian population by their mid-twenties.

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