For a young country, Canada’s getting pretty old.
For the first time in Canada’s history, there are more people aged 65 and older than children under the age of 15, Statistics Canada reported Tuesday.
The federal agency reported that nearly one in six Canadians — approximately 5.78 million — were at least 65 years old on July 1, 2015. The population under the age of 15 came in at 5.75 million.
According to Statistics Canada’s projections, that gap between old and young is expected to widen over the next decades. Based on current estimates, seniors are expected to account for 20.1 per cent of the total population by 2024.
“In 2014-15, the growth rate of the population aged 65 years and older was 3.5 (per cent), approximately four times the growth rate of the total population,” the agency reported. “The annual growth rate of this age group has accelerated since 2011, when the first members of the baby boom generation . . . turned 65.”
Aging populations is a widespread issue for industrialized nations. In fact, Canada remains younger than many of its G7 allies, with only the United States having a lower proportion of seniors (15 per cent).
But some research predicts Canada will feel the impact of an aging baby boom population more acutely than its neighbours.
And with a rapidly aging population comes questions about everything from retirement security to the sustainability of Canada’s health care system.
In 2011, the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) noted that Canada was expected to have 22 per cent of its population over the age of 64 within three decades. The same percentage was not expected to be seen in countries like the United Kingdom, France, Germany or the United States for at least 50 years.
And while Canada had a good ratio of working-age adults to seniors back in 2010 compared to other OECD countries — with 4.46 working-aged people for every senior — CIHI noted that ratio is expected to decline to 2.84 workers per senior by 2025.
“The needs of an older population are different than the needs of kids, so if you look at expenditure patterns at a national level you see that shift a little bit away from things that children consume to adults, health care being the one that we hear most about,” said Doug Norris, the chief demographer at Environics Analytics in Ottawa.
“The other change is a slow down in the labour market growth . . . we get a slow down in employment, which is really a demographically driven factor in part.”
Overall, Canada added 308,100 people in 2014-15 — a G7-leading increase of 0.9 per cent growth compared to the year before. Most of that growth — 60.8 per cent — was the result of immigration rather than new births.
Julia Al Akaila, 21, a new immigrant, says she understands why people from other countries are clamouring to come here.
She arrived in Canada from Greece three and a half years ago, arriving here on her own to escape the harsh reality of the economic crisis in Greece, and to pursue what she says are better educational opportunities here.
“The transition process was a bit hard at first,” she says, referring to life in Toronto.
She says she likes the multicultural feel of the city, but was a bit discouraged at first by what seemed like a propensity of people of different ethic backgrounds to mingle mainly within their own communities.
Statistics Canada also reported the number of non-permanent residents across Canada declined by 10,300 from July 1, 2014 to June 30, 2015, the largest annual decrease since the mid-1990s.
With files from Donovan Vincent