Why Canada’s fertility rate hit an all-time low

Statistics Canada released new data on Wednesday showing that the country’s fertility rate has plummeted to an all-time low of 1.33 children per woman in 2022. It’s part of a larger trend that started in 2009 and one demographer warns the drop is closely linked to a rise in economic pressures.

“The economy is getting more competitive,” Kate Choi, the director of Western University’s Centre for Research on Social Inequality, said on CTV News Channel. “There are a lot of economic barriers.”

The decline in the fertility rate between 2021 and 2022 is the largest observed since the “baby bust” seen in the early 1970s and Choi says it could have long-term impacts on Canadian society.

What does this mean going forward?

Canada’s fertility rate of 1.33 is far below the “replacement fertility rate,” according to Choi, but what does that mean?

Replacement fertility rate is how a population replaces itself from one generation to the next, with the assumption that in developed nations the replacement fertility level needed is 2.1 children per woman, on average.

Being so far below the average, according to Choi, means that Canada is reliant “mass migration” in order to ensure that the Canadian population can replace itself.

“The population in Canada will be aging,” Choi told Todd van der Heyden on Wednesday. “That has implications for… the solvency of social security programs.”

It will also have an implication on Canada’s already overburdened health-care systems in terms of cost, but also leading to shortages of staff and caretakers for our rapidly aging population.

“A lot of economic barriers”

But what’s driving the decline? Choi says that it’s closely linked to affordability issues, particularly “housing affordability issues.”

“Economic needs have changed,” Choi says. “We have moved away from a single-earner family to a dual-earner family.”

The rising economic pressures are leading some to have fewer children, or to have them later in life – particularly as both men and women stay in school for “prolonged periods of time.”

However Canada’s housing crisis is also playing a role in the drop in fertility. Large swathes of Canada are dealing with a deep lack of housing stock, leading to skyrocketing mortgage and rent costs.

Choi says that without “a suitable and secure place” to raise children, many couples are putting off having a child.

“It’s also the case… couples may want to delay fertility until after they have a down payment for a home.”

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