According to Statistics Canada, women in Canada are having more babies for the first time in a decade. A total of 333,744 babies were born in 2001, up 1.8 per cent from the year before. The fertility rate (the average number of children a woman between the ages of 15 and 49 will have) has risen from 1.49 in 2000 to 1.51. In Ontario, there was an increase of 3.4 per cent in births, with a total of 131,709 babies. The largest increase was among mothers in the 30 to 34 and 35 to 39 age groups. In addition, teenage births hit a record low, continuing the decline that began in 1992.

Though the reason for the increase is uncertain, several reasons may explain the increase for women in their early 30s who are choosing to start their families now. Some women may have wanted to establish their careers before having a baby, even though their biological clock was ticking. Others may have heeded the warning not to wait too long to try to have children.

There is also a parallel between births and the extension of parental benefits under employment insurance. Since December 2000, parental benefits under the Employment Insurance have increased from a maximum of 10 weeks to 35 weeks. The economy has improved and increases in the Canada Child Tax Benefit to $9-billion in the 2000 budget have helped families raise children in this country. Although “there is a coincidence with the increase in benefits, … we can’t determine if that is why the change occurred,” Statistics Canada spokeswoman Patricia Tully said.

The fertility rate among 25 to 29 year olds still remains highest, at 97.9 births per 1,000 women, but that number has fallen 26 per cent since 1981. The rate for women aged 30 to 34, however, has risen 35 per cent to 89.9 per 1,000. Births have increased in Ontario as well as in Quebec, Saskatchewan and Alberta. Although these statistics are encouraging, it should be noted that to merely sustain the current population, the birthrate must be 2.1 children per family.