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Canada Depending on Immigration for Population Growth

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Demographic situation in Canada, 1997

According to the most recent estimates, births in Canada declined for a sixth consecutive year in 1996. This trend shows no sign of reversing. As the death rate continues to rise, it is likely that by the year 2020, Canada’s natural growth in the population will approach zero.

These developments accentuate a situation that has been anticipated for a number of years, namely that population growth in Canada will depend increasingly on immigration. Immigrants represented 17.4% of the population in 1996 – the largest share in more than 50 years.

Substantial decline in natural growth since 1991

Natural growth in the Canadian population declined substantially from 7.7 to 5.7 per 1 000 between 1990 and 1995. By 1996, natural growth accounted for only 47% of the total growth, while immigration accounted for 53%. In the United States, immigration accounts for only one third of the annual total population growth.

An aging population reduces natural growth since it is accompanied by an increase in deaths. At the same time, the number of births continues to decline, and, will likely remain falling for a number of years for two reasons. First, the total fertility rate has remained practically unchanged at 1.6 children
per woman for several years. Second, there are fewer women of child-bearing age born during the “baby bust” years following the strong baby-boom generations.

Since the anticipated baby-boom echo was minimal, if present at all, the decline in the number of births, already apparent, will leave a gap in the age structure in the years to come. Unless there is an immediate and significant recovery of the fertility rate (which is highly unlikely) the decline in the number of births will continue before stabilizing at a relatively low level. This would suggest that between 2020 and 2030, the number of births will equal the number of deaths, producing
a natural growth rate of zero in Canada.