TORONTO (AP) — For the first time in Canada's history, there are more seniors than children.
The government's Statistics Canada agency said Wednesday new census figures show there are now 5.9 million Canadians aged 65 and older. They outnumber the 5.8 million children 14 and under.
The first of the post-World War II baby boomers born from 1946 to 1965 began turning 65 in 2011 and many have now retired.
The number of Canadians who are 65 or older grew 20 percent between 2011 and 2016. And 8,230 Canadians reached the age of 100 last year, making them the fastest growing segment.
The agency that despite the recent acceleration in aging, Canada has a lower proportion of seniors — 16.9 percent — than any other Group of Seven country except the U.S, which is at 14.5 percent. Italy and Germany are over 21 percent and Japan is at 25.1 percent.
But by 2031, the agency predicts, 23 percent of Canadians could be 65 or older, while the proportion of children 14 and younger could remain similar to the 2016 level of 16 percent. Despite 30 years of sustained immigration having a significant impact on Canada's population growth, it did not have much impact on the aging of Canada's population because most immigrants are in their thirties and are growing older.
"The Canadian population will continue to age rapidly until 2031 and the proportion of seniors could eventually equal the level now seen in Japan," the agency says. "Japan stands out among all other countries in that it has the oldest population in the world, with one in four people 65 years of age and older. The combination of very low fertility and the highest life expectancy in the world explains why Japan has an older population than elsewhere."
Doug Norris, chief demographer at the analytical services company Environics Analytics, said the accelerating pace of aging has many impacts. An older population will be a drag on economic growth as seniors spend less than most, he said.
"The impacts on pensions and health care are well known, as an older population will account for increasing government expenditures in these areas," he said." For many Canadians an older population means more caregiving for relatives and friends."