Statistics Canada forecasts population growth of 21 million thanks to immigration

Asheesh Moosapeta, Vimal Sivakumar
Updated: Jun, 24, 2024
  • Published: June 24, 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 for the period of 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” as well as “the opinions of population experts who were consulted specifically during the development of these projections.”

The projection of 63 million, however, is based on Statistics Canada’s medium-growth scenario (M1).

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How is Canada’s population going to grow?

This projected growth, of roughly 21 million* over 50 years, is despite the aging of Canada’s natural population.

*Canada’s population, led by immigration, has recently surpassed 41 million less than a year after reaching the 40 million milestone

In fact, by 2073, “older adults” (aged 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. This is according to “most” of Statistics Canada’s projection models, including the M1 scenario that produced the 63 million population figure.

Overall, due to the projected increase in older residents and the decrease in children across the country, Canada’s average age would reach between 42.6 and 50.1 years in 2073. This is up from an average age of 41.6 years in 2023.

Challenges for Canada's population

As stated in the report: “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. Not only does a lower life expectancy reduce the population at the higher end, but a lower fertility rate means that 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 aging population. Older populations in countries like Canada can produce strain on Canada’s social systems such as healthcare. This is because 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 aging population, this means that costs incurred through healthcare are increased while the number of people who can bear these costs for the country at large are 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 key strategy: immigration. Immigration not only contributes to nearly 100% of Canada’s labour force growth—it is crucial towards filling labour gaps in critical sectors and provides Canada with the young people needed to demographically balance the country’s population. 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 years to 40.6 years of age.

Importantly immigration is not a one-time solution. Per 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 aging 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 every year 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—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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