The Canadian Population in 2011: Age and Sex
Table of contents
The number of seniors aged 65 and over increased 14.1% between 2006 and 2011 to nearly 5 million. This rate of growth was higher than that of children aged 14 and under (0.5%) and people aged 15 to 64 (5.7%).
Seniors accounted for a record high of 14.8% of the population in Canada in 2011, up from 13.7% five years earlier.
In 2011, the proportion of seniors in Canada was among the lowest of the G8 countries.
The population of children aged 4 and under increased 11.0% between 2006 and 2011. This was the highest growth rate for this age group since the 1956 to 1961 period during the baby boom.
In 2011, there were 5,825 centenarians in Canada, up 25.7% since 2006. This was the second most rapidly growing age group among all age groups after those aged 60 to 64.
In 2011, the working-age population (those aged 15 to 64) represented 68.5% of the Canadian population. This proportion was higher than in any other G8 country, except Russia.
Among the working-age population, 42.4% were in the age group 45 to 64, a record high proportion. Almost all people aged 45 to 64 in 2011 were baby boomers.
In 2011, census data showed for the first time that there were more people aged 55 to 64, typically the age group where people leave the labour force, than aged 15 to 24, typically the age group where people enter it.
In 2011, the proportion of seniors was the highest in the Atlantic provinces, Quebec and British Columbia.
For the first time in 50 years, the number of children aged 4 and under increased between 2006 and 2011 in all provinces and territories.
In 2011, all census metropolitan areas located west of Ontario had a proportion of people aged 65 and over below the national average of 14.8%, except for Kelowna and Victoria in British Columbia.
Nearly 1 in 5 people were aged 65 and over in Peterborough and Trois-Rivières; in Calgary, this proportion was lower than 1 in 10 people.
Most census metropolitan areas with proportions of seniors lower than the Canadian average (such as Calgary, Halifax and St. John's) also had higher-than-average proportions of people aged between 15 and 64.
Among census agglomerations, Parksville, on Vancouver Island in British Columbia and Elliot Lake, in Ontario, had the highest proportion of seniors, at twice the national average of 14.8%.
In 2011, 5 of the 10 census agglomerations that registered the highest proportions of people aged 15 to 64 were in Alberta.
Seven of the 10 municipalities with the highest proportion of seniors were in British Columbia.
Part 1: National portrait
The number of Canadians aged 65 and older is up and is close to 5 million
The 2011 Census counted 4,945,060 people aged 65 and older in Canada, an increase of more than 609,810, or 14.1%, between 2006 and 2011. This rate of growth was more than double the 5.9% increase for the Canadian population as a whole.
In comparison, the number of children aged 14 and under increased by 27,505, or 0.5%, to 5,607,345.
As a result, the number of seniors aged 65 and over has continued to catch up with the number of children during the period from 2006 to 2011 (Figure 1).Footnote 1
During the same period, the number of people aged 15 to 64 increased by 1,226,475, or 5.7%, to 22,924,285.
Seniors accounted for a record high of 14.8% of the population in 2011, up from 13.7% five years earlier.
This proportion has steadily increased since the end of the 1960s for two reasons: below replacement fertility levelsFootnote 2 and longer life expectancy.
Despite the growth in their numbers, the proportion of children aged 14 and under fell from 17.7% in 2006 to 16.7% in 2011.
The proportion of the working-age population remained virtually unchanged between 2006 and 2011 at 68.5%.
Population aged 60 to 64 growing most rapidly
Of all five-year age groups, the 60 to 64 year old group experienced the fastest increase, at 29.1% (Figure 2). This suggests that population aging will accelerate in Canada in the coming years, as the large baby boom generation, those born between 1946 and 1965, reaches 65 years old. The first baby boomers reached 65 years old in 2011.
More information about the baby boom generation, as well as other generations within the Canadian population, can be found in the Census in Brief entitled 'Generations in Canada.'
All age groups with a growth rate higher than 20% were above age 60. The second most rapidly growing age group was the centenarians, at 25.7%. For more information on the population aged 100 and over, consult the Census in Brief entitled 'Centenarians in Canada.'
Highest increase in the number of children aged 4 and under in 50 years
The population of children aged 4 and under increased 11.0% between 2006 and 2011 (Figure 2). This was the result of slightly higher fertility level and an increase in the number of women aged between 20 and 34 during that period.
It was the highest growth rate for this age group since the 1956 to 1961 period, during the baby boom. It was also the highest growth rate of all age groups below age 50 between 2006 and 2011.
Canada's population among the youngest in the G8
The proportion of seniors increased between 2006 and 2011 in all G8 countries except Russia, suggesting many countries face challenges related to population aging.
Canada's population remains one of the youngest among the G8. In 2011, only the United States and Russia had a lower proportion of seniors than Canada, as shown in Figure 3. The baby boom in Canada was larger than in many other G8 countries, and most baby boomers have not yet reached age 65.
The United States had a lower proportion of seniors than Canada and a greater share of children aged 14 and under mainly because of higher fertility rates.
Nearly 1 person in 4 is aged 65 or over in Japan, the world's oldest population. This situation is related to low fertility and very high life expectancy.
Share of the working-age population higher in Canada than in most G8 countries
In 2011, the working-age population (those aged 15 to 64) represented 68.5% of the Canadian population. This proportion was higher than any other G8 country, except Russia (Figure 4).
This proportion was lowest in Japan at 63.5%. In all G8 countries located in Europe, it was slightly below 66%.
In Canada, the proportion of people aged 15 to 64 has remained close to 68% since 1981, because the baby boom generation has been in this age range.
As the first baby boomers reached age 65 in 2011, it is projected that the working-age population as a proportion of the total population will decrease.Footnote 3
Record high proportion of people aged 45 to 64 in the working-age population
In 2011, the proportion of people aged 45 to 64 among the working-age population reached 42.4%, a record proportion. This was well above the proportion of 28.6% observed in 1991.
Almost all people aged 45 to 64 in 2011 were baby boomers.
Fewer young people about to enter the labour force than those about to leave it
In 2011, census data showed for the first time that there were more people in the age group where people typically leave the labour force (55 to 64), than in the age group where people typically enter it (15 to 24).
The 2011 Census counted 4,393,305 people aged 55 to 64 and 4,365,585 people aged 15 to 24.
In 2001, for every person aged 55 to 64, there were 1.40 people in the age group 15 to 24. By 2011, this ratio had fallen slightly below 1 (0.99) for the first time, as shown in Figure 5.
Part 2: Provinces and territories
Large differences in the age structure of provincial and territorial populations
From one province or territory to the next, the age structure of the population can vary greatly. Most often, these differences are the result of differentials in fertility and immigration levels, as well as in interprovincial migration patterns.
The 2011 age pyramids of Alberta and Newfoundland and Labrador, for example, were quite different (Figure 6). Alberta's age pyramid was wider at the bottom, indicating proportionally more children than in Newfoundland and Labrador and reflecting a higher fertility level.
Alberta's age pyramid is also wider than that of Newfoundland and Labrador between the ages of 20 and 40. This shows the effect of net inflows of young adults moving into Alberta from other regions of the country and the impact of Alberta receiving more immigrants.
The pyramid for Newfoundland and Labrador shows a lower proportion of people in their 20s and 30s. This is the result of net outflows of young adults and lower immigration levels. Fewer children and young adults lead to proportionally more seniors in Newfoundland and Labrador than in Alberta.
Faster population aging in the Atlantic provinces and Quebec
From 2006 to 2011, the proportion of seniors increased faster in the Atlantic provinces (+1.7 percentage points) and Quebec (+1.6), compared to Ontario (+1.1), the Prairie provinces (0.0),Footnote 4 British Columbia (+1.1) and the territories (+1.1) (Figure 7).
As a result, in 2011, the highest proportions of seniors were observed in the Atlantic provinces, Quebec and British Columbia.
At 11.1%, Alberta had the lowest proportion of seniors among all provinces. The proportions in the three territories were much lower than the national average. Nunavut had the lowest proportion of seniors in Canada at 3.3%. Nunavut's fertility rate is about three children per woman and it has the lowest life expectancy of all provinces and territories.
Of all provinces and territories, Saskatchewan was the only one to experience a decrease in its proportion of seniors, from 15.4% in 2006 to 14.9% in 2011. This situation is related to the fact that both proportions of people aged 14 and under and of 15 to 64 years increased significantly in Saskatchewan between 2006 and 2011.
Working-age population: decrease in Atlantic provinces and Quebec; increase in Ontario, Prairie provinces and British Columbia
Between 2006 and 2011, the proportion of people aged 15 to 64 declined in the Atlantic provinces and Quebec, while it increased in Ontario, the Prairie provinces and British Columbia. Increases were also observed for Northwest Territories and Nunavut, while a slight decrease occurred in Yukon.
In 2011, the share of the working-age population (aged 15 to 64) was higher than the national average in three provinces (Alberta, British Columbia and Newfoundland and Labrador) and two territories (Yukon and Northwest Territories) (Figure 8). Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Nunavut all had proportions lower than the national average.
In Alberta, this age group represented 70.1% of the population, above the national average of 68.5%. This was mostly the result of Alberta receiving working-age people from other parts of the country over a number of years. Lower shares of this age group in Manitoba and Saskatchewan are related to the fact that they had the highest proportions of children aged 14 and under. This is a result of higher fertility levels than elsewhere.
These trends indicate that the challenges related to population aging might vary from one province or territory to the next.
The number of children aged 4 and under on the rise everywhere
For the first time in 50 years, the number of children aged 4 and under increased in all provinces and territories between 2006 and 2011 (Table 1).
The largest increases occurred in Alberta (+20.9%), Saskatchewan (+19.6%), Quebec (+17.5%), Nunavut (+15.7%), and Yukon (+13.8%). In most provinces and territories, this was the largest increase since the end of the baby boom.
Increases in the number of women aged 20 to 34 in most provinces and territories, and increases in fertility levels in all provinces and most territories, explain the growth in the number of children aged 4 and under.
In Saskatchewan, the number of children per woman increased to 2.06 in 2009, close to the replacement rate of 2.1.Footnote 5 This was the highest fertility rate among Canadian provinces.
More men than women in the working-age population in Alberta, Saskatchewan, the Northwest Territories, and Nunavut
In 2011, men outnumbered women in the working-age population in Alberta, Saskatchewan, the Northwest Territories, and Nunavut. Two factors are related to this situation. First, the populations of these provinces and territories were among the youngest in Canada. Younger populations tend to have more men than women as there are more men than women up to about age 25. Furthermore, in the past five years, Alberta and, to a lesser extent, Saskatchewan attracted a large number of migrants from other regions of the country, among which many were men.
Part 3: Portrait of metropolitan and non-metropolitan Canada
Population of census metropolitan areas younger on average than the population living elsewhere
According to the 2011 Census, seniors accounted for 13.7% of the population of Canada's census metropolitan areas (CMAs) (see Box 1). This was lower than the share of 17.0% in census agglomerations (CAs) and 17.2% in regions located outside CMAs and CAs (Table 2).
According to the geography of the 2011 Census, Canada has 33 census metropolitan areas (CMAs), a number unchanged since 2006, as well as 114 census agglomerations (CAs), up from 111 in 2006 (see CMA/CA map). Five new CAs have been added since 2006: Steinbach (Manitoba) and High River, Strathmore, Sylvan Lake and Lacombe (Alberta). Two CAs in 2006 ceased to be CAs in 2011: La Tuque (Quebec) and Kitimat (British Columbia).
Outside of CMAs and CAs, a distinction can be made between regions located close to CMAs or CAs and those that are remote from such regions (see Statistical Area Classification, 2011 map). This distinction is based on the concept of census metropolitan influenced zone (MIZ).
Regions located close to CMAs or CAs refer to census subdivisions (CSD) outside CMAs and CAs classified as strong metropolitan influenced zone (strong MIZ). In those regions, more than 30% of the labour force commutes to work in the CMA or CA.
Regions remote from CMAs and CAs refer to CSDs outside CMAs and CAs classified as either moderate, weak or no metropolitan influenced zones (moderate MIZ, weak MIZ or no MIZ).
The data presented in this document are based on the final 2011 geographic boundaries.
End of text box 1.
CMAs combined had a higher proportion of people aged 15 to 64 (69.5%) than CAs combined (66.8%) and regions located outside CMAs and CAs (65.7%).
Differences between regions in the age structure are often related to variations in migration patterns of young adults and differences in immigration levels.
Despite these differences, the proportion of people aged 65 and over increased in all three regions between 2006 and 2011. It increased faster in CAs (+1.5 percentage points) and in regions located outside of CMAs and CAs (+1.7) than in CMAs (+0.9).
Regions located outside CMAs and CAs can be divided into three categories: those located close to CMAs or CAs; those located remote from CMAs and CAs; and those in the territories, excluding the CAs of Yellowknife and Whitehorse.
Regions located remote from CMAs and CAs had a higher proportion of people aged 65 and over (17.9%) than regions located close to CMAs and CAs (15.6%). Similarly, the proportion of the working‑age population (15 to 64) was higher on average in regions located close to CMAs and CAs (67.4%) than in regions located remote from CMAs and CAs (65.0%).
These differences may be related to the fact that a large share of the population living in regions located close to CMAs and CAs commute to work or study in the CMA or the CA close by. Public transportation, major roads as well as affordable housing are factors that may attract people aged between 15 and 64 to those areas.
Regions located in the territories, excluding the CAs of Yellowknife and Whitehorse, had a different age structure than other regions located outside CMAs and CAs. These regions had a much higher proportion of children aged 14 and under (27.2%) and a much lower proportion of seniors (5.9%). Higher fertility and lower life expectancy can explain most of the differences observed in the age structure of these populations.
Proportion of seniors below the national average in most census metropolitan areas located in Western provinces
In 2011, all CMAs located west of Ontario had a proportion of people aged 65 and over below the national average of 14.8%, except for Kelowna (19.2%) and Victoria (18.4%)Footnote 6 in British Columbia (Figure 9).
Nearly 1 in 5 people were aged 65 and over in Peterborough (19.5%) and Trois-Rivières (19.4%). In Calgary, the share was 9.8%. Two other Western CMAs, Edmonton (11.4%) and Saskatoon (12.1%), also had low proportions of seniors. These three Western CMAs had proportions of children aged 14 and under higher than the national average, as well as the highest rates of population growth between 2006 and 2011.
Most CMAs with proportions of seniors lower than the Canadian average, such as Calgary, Halifax and St. John's, also had higher proportions of the working-age population (Figure 10).
Of the 19 CMAs with proportions of the working-age population above the national average, 9 were provincial/federal capitals. These CMAs are relatively large and attract working-age people due to labour market opportunities and the presence of major universities and other post-secondary institutions. In 4 of these CMAs, Halifax, St. John's, Edmonton and Ottawa - Gatineau, more than 7 people in 10 were between 15 and 64 years old.
Census agglomerations: highest proportion of seniors in Parksville, British Columbia, and Elliot Lake, Ontario
In 2011, seniors accounted for 38.6% of the population of Parksville, which is on Vancouver Island in British Columbia. This was higher than in all other census agglomerations, as it was in the 2006 Census (Table 3). Seniors represented 35.1% of the population of Elliot Lake, Ontario. Proportions of seniors for both CAs were more than twice the national average of 14.8%.
In 2011, 5 of the 10 census agglomerations that registered the highest proportions of people aged 15 to 64 were located in Alberta (Table 4).
The census agglomeration with the highest proportion of the working-age population was Wood Buffalo, Alberta (79.3%). This was also one of the fastest growing census agglomerations between 2006 and 2011, benefiting from a strong economy based on natural resources. Other CAs with a high proportion of people aged 15 to 64, such as Grande Prairie and Fort St. John, were located in regions where the economy is strongly connected to natural resources.
Part 4: Portrait of municipalities (census subdivisions)
Seven of the 10 municipalities with the highest proportion of persons aged 65 and over located in British Columbia
The census is the only data source that provides a statistical portrait of the population of all municipalities in Canada, which for the purpose of the census are called census subdivisions (CSDs).
Table 5 presents the top 10 municipalities with a population of 5,000 or more with the highest proportions of people aged 65 and over in 2011. Many of the top 10 municipalities are areas that tend to attract retired people.
Seven of the 10 municipalities with the highest proportion of seniors were in British Columbia. Seniors accounted for nearly 1 out of every 2 people (47.2%) in the population of Qualicum Beach, located in the census agglomeration of Parksville, British Columbia. This was the highest share of all municipalities.
The municipalities with the highest share of working-age population (15 to 64) were Banff, Alberta, (83.4%) and Whistler, British Columbia, (82.8%) (Table 6). Banff, part of a national park, and Whistler, a major ski resort, draw young adults from all over Canada. Wood Buffalo, Alberta, where the economy has grown as a result of oil sands activity, had the third highest percentage (79.6%).
All 3 territorial capitals, Yellowknife, Whitehorse and Iqaluit, were also among the top 10 municipalities with proportionally large working-age populations. They attract workers from other parts of the territories or other parts of Canada.
The document The Census: A tool for planning at the local level, Catalogue no. 98-311-X2011003, in the Census in Brief series and the Census Profile, Catalogue no. 98-316-X, provide additional information at the local area level.
Additional information on specific geographies can be found in the Highlight Tables, Catalogue no. 98‑311-X2011002, as well as in the new census product Focus on Geography Series, Catalogue no. 98-310-X2011004.
Note to readers
Random rounding and percentage distributions: To ensure the confidentiality of responses collected for the 2011 Census, a random rounding process is used to alter the values reported in individual cells. As a result, when these data are summed or grouped, the total value may not match the sum of the individual values, since the total and subtotals are independently rounded. Similarly, percentage distributions, which are calculated on rounded data, may not necessarily add up to 100%.
Due to random rounding, counts and percentages may vary slightly between different census products, such as the analytical document, highlight tables, and topic-based tabulations.
This report was prepared by Laurent Martel and France-Pascale Ménard, of Statistics Canada's Demography Division, with the assistance of staff members of Statistics Canada's Census Subject Matter Secretariat, Geography Division, Census Operations Division, Dissemination Division and Communications Division.
- Footnote 1
According to the medium-growth scenario of Statistics Canada's most recent population projections, by 2016, the number of seniors could exceed the number of children, a first in the country.
- Footnote 2
Refers to the number of children per woman needed for a population to replenish itself in the absence of migration, which is 2.1.
- Footnote 3
According to the medium-growth scenario of Statistics Canada's most recent population projections, this proportion could reach 61% by 2031.
- Footnote 4
Among the Prairie provinces, there are some small differences in the percentage point variation between 2006 and 2001, increasing in both Manitoba (+0.2) and Alberta (+0.4) while decreasing in Saskatchewan (-0.5).
- Footnote 5
The last year for which vital statistics data on births are available is 2009.
- Footnote 6
Victoria also had the highest proportion (6.2%) of people aged 80 and over among Canadian CMAs, which was higher than the national average (4.0%).
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