Statistics Canada released data May 31 showing that the average birth rate for women has decreased to a record-low 1.4 children per woman of child-bearing age, down from the previous low of 1.47 in 2019; 2.1 children per woman of child-bearing age is considered the natural replacement rate for a population.
Canada’s population has grown 5.2 per cent since 2016 to just under 37 million people but Statistics Canada observed “immigration, not fertility, mostly drove Canada’s population growth during that period.” In 2021, Canada brought in 401,000 new immigrants, a number the Liberal government wants to see increase to help grow the economy.
In 2020, the most recent year for which there is data available, there were only 358,604 births, a drop of more than 13,000 from 2019 and the lowest mark since 2007.
Statistics Canada reported that surveys show that one-quarter of Canadians changed their fertility plans – the timing or number of children desired — because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Campaign Life Coalition National News reported, “The birth rate has been in steep decline in recent decades so the pandemic is not to blame; it only made things worse.”
Canada is already among the “late-childbearing countries,” with the average age of mothers at the time of delivery at 31.3 years, indicating many women are putting off having children until much later in life. In 2016, the average age of mother at time of delivery was 30.7 years. Women who have children later in life tend to have fewer children and fewer children than they desire.
The birth rate varied greatly among provinces, with just 1.17 births per woman in B.C. and to a high of 1.78 births per woman in Saskatchewan. Only Nunavut had a birth rate above the replacement rate.
Statistics Canada noted “if the country’s fertility rate continues to decline further in the coming years, Canada could join the countries with the ‘lowest-low’ fertility rates (1.3 or less children per woman) – a situation with rapid population aging and increased stress on the labour market, public health care, and pension systems.”
Other countries with such low fertility rates include South Korea (1.1), Italy (1.22), and Spain (1.27). Japan and Poland are also headed in that direction at 1.38 and 1.4 births per woman of child-bearing age.
Not everyone is concerned about Canada’s tumbling fertility rate. Susan McDaniel, a sociology professor at the University of Victoria, told CTV News falling birth rates is “a good trend” because “it’s better for the children if there are fewer children, it’s better for the parents if there are fewer children, and it’s better for the society and the planet and everything else.”