Canada's Population Versus the Population Pyramid
by William Warren Munroe, August 10, 2014

Although not representative of the real shape of Canada’s population as a whole for the last 50 years, the term "population pyramid" (technically, an age sex distribution) continues to be taught to students of demographics.

With below replacement fertility and the rise of the elders, how does Canada’s age/sex distribution compare to the often referred to population pyramid. To see if those of working age are over burdened with the care of dependents (children and elders) let’s compare the portion of children, elders, and those of working age.

Figure 1: Canada, Population Pyramid, Broad Age Groups, Percent of Total 1

In the graph above, we see that elders make up 13% of the population pyramid while elders made up 15% of Canada’s population in 2011. We also see that those of working age (in this case those 15 to 64 years of age inclusive) make up 60% of the population pyramid while they made up 68.5% of Canada’s population in 2011. The biggest difference between the population pyramid and Canada’s population in 2011 was for those under 15: this group accounts for 27% of the population pyramid and only 16.5% of Canada's population in 2011.

Before coming up with a new term for the shape of Canada’s age/sex distribution, perhaps we should take a look at what the future may look like if current demographic trends continue. Visit Canada’s Population Projection Project.

Endnotes and Sources:

1 To create this population pyramid, use five year age groups, giving 100 males and 100 females to the 0 to 4 year olds. For each of the following age groups take away 5 males and 5 females. For example, there would be 95 males and 95 females in the 5 to 9 year age group, followed by 90 males and 90 females in the 10 to 14 year old age group, with this pattern continuing to 95 to 99 year olds. For the 100 plus, rather than using 0, this population pyramid uses 1 male and 1 female.

Canada's 2011 age/sex distribution: Adapted from Statistics Canada 2011 Census of Population counts, by William Warren Munroe.

Statistics Canada. 2012. Population and dwelling counts, for Canada, provinces and territories, 2011 and 2006 censuses (table). Population and Dwelling Count Highlight Tables. 2011 Census. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 98-310-XWE2011002. Released February 8, 2012. (accessed February 08, 2012). For further information, refer to:

Related Reading

Population Projection Project for Canada's Census Areas

Take a look at Canada's Age Sex Distribution animated projection (medium scenario). The animation starts at 1996 and clicks through to 2041. Notice in the 1996 chart, the baby boom bulge (which is just the resumption of more births than deaths - the population pyramid - after WW2) followed by fewer numbers in the younger age groups reflecting (resulting from) reduced fertility beginning in the mid 1960s. This medium scenario projection is an average of the 1996 to 2011 cohort change ratios thus creating a central tendency that eventually provides smooth lines in the younger age groups by the end of the projection period.

Why are Statistics Canada's projections so high compared to the United Nations and the Cohort Change Ratios projections?

Why so different?

Government population projections for BC reflect an "up and to the right" aspiration, while the cohort change ratios method shows BC's population growth slowing, and levelling out. Read a "A Comparison of Population Projections for BC"...

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