Oscillations in Canada's Age Distribution
Change in 5 Year Age Groups, Canada, 1996 to 2041
by William Warren Munroe, September 23, 2014

Alarm about the impact of the boomers aging out of the work force (in this case, 15 to 64 years of age) and into retirement (65 and over) is often exaggerated. As seen in recent articles, Canada does not require 650,000 to 750,000 skilled immigrants of working age every year. Rather, as Canada's population growth slows and levels out over the next couple of generations, the number of people of working age will also level out; however, this does not necessarily mean that all the 5 year age groups (i.e. 20 to 24 year olds or 60 to 64 year olds) will level out, or stay the same. In fact, we see that the number of people in these (and all) 5 year age groups will continue to rise and fall making planning ( i.e. opening and closing schools or health facilities) ... at least a challenge.

Figure 1: Change in 5 Year Age Groups, Canada, 1996 to 20412

Theoretically, "the whole thing [the boomers retiring] becomes a crisis level by 2030 and then rebalances"1. After the boomers age out of the work force, will the whole thing rebalance? Let's take a look at an animation of the change in the number of people by 5 year age groups (as well as those 100 year of age and older), from 1996 to 2011 (Census of Population counts) thru 2016 to 2041 (medium projection scenario), based on current demographic trends (average of 1996 to 2011 census counts cohort change ratios).

If current (1996 to 2011) demographic trends continue, the age distribution will continue to oscillate - boom, bust, echo, bust, echo, bust, echo, etc. By 2041, the first of the boomers, people born from 1946 to 1951, will be 90 to 94 years old. At the same time, the number of children under 5 years of age will increase again reflecting the increase in the number of 30 to 34 year olds - people born between 2006 and 2011 - the echo currently entering elementary schools.

Are these changes, these oscillations in the age distribution, increases and decreases in all 5 year age groups, important to understand when planning at the national and the local level?

What do you think?

Endnotes and Sources:

1 Carleton University professor, Linda Duxbury, August 2014

2 The figures for 1996, 2001, 2006, and 2011 are adapted from Statistics Canada, 1996, 2001, 2006, and 2011 Census of Population counts, by William Warren Munroe. The 2016 to 2041 projection numbers by William Warren Munroe are created using the cohort change ratios method based on the 1996, 2001, 2006, and 2011 Census of Population counts from Statistics Canada's website

The figures for 2016 to 2041 are developed by William Warren Munroe using the cohort change ratios method based on the 1996, 2001, 2006, and 2011 Census of Population counts.

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. http://www12.statcan.ca/census-recensement/2011/dp-pd/hlt-fst/pd-pl/File.cfm?T=101&SR=1&RPP=25&PR=0&CMA=0&S=50&O=A&LANG=Eng&OFT=CSV (accessed February 08, 2012). For further information, refer to: http://www12.statcan.gc.ca/census-recensement/2011/dp-pd/hlt-fst/pd-pl/Notes-eng.cfm.

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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