Babies or immigrants? Canada searches for way forward
February 9, 2012. 6:48 am
Unlike the U.S. and France, Canada’s growth is not mainly through babies being born
Canada’s population is surging despite far fewer children being born in the country. The bulk of the nation’s fast growth relies on foreign newcomers.
Statistics Canada’s census figures released Wednesday reveal children born in Canada account for only one-third of the country’s growth of almost six per cent since 2006, the highest rate of all G8 countries.
With Canadian women having fewer babies, and the large baby boom generation beginning to die off in two decades, Statistics Canada projects in-migration will become an even more powerful engine in the future – accounting for four-fifths of all population growth in 2031.
Number of immigrants coming to Canada since 1852. (Stats Canada graph does not include recent rise in temporary foreign workers)
What has the soaring Canadian population meant for Metro Vancouver? The census data from 2011 suggest a strong majority of the roughly 200,000 extra people who have made their home here, resulting in a growth rate of almost 10 per cent, came from outside the country.
It’s a sharp demographic switch from the early 1960s, when Canadian women were on average having 3.9 children and “natural” increases in population – the difference between births and deaths – accounted for almost all expansion.
The Canadian fertility rate has gradually fallen from those long-ago days to about 1.7 babies for each woman, below even the natural replacement level of 2.1.
University of B.C. family policy professor Paul Kershaw recently released a survey suggesting a crucial factor in declining birthrates is the increasing cost of raising children in Canadian cities.
There are many factors affecting birthrates. An earlier report from Statistics Canada showed fertility rates vary among ethnic and religious groups.
Canadian aboriginal women, along with Muslim women, have had the highest fertility rates in the country, averaging roughly 2.4 babies. Hindu and Sikh women typically give birth to about two babies, while Catholic and Protestant women, and those with no religion, average about 1.6 offspring.
Based on ethnicity alone, the lowest birthrates in Canada have been among white, Japanese, Chinese and especially Korean women, all of whom deliver children at a rate below the average.
Policy analysts, family advocates, community planners and economists will have many reasons to pore over this fresh new birth and migration data.
That’s in part because it captures the results of Immigration Canada, in the year 2010, officially welcoming a record number of immigrants (280,000), plus a record number of temporary foreign workers (182,000) and foreign students (96,000).
While Canada has the fastest-expanding population in the G8, the U.S. comes in second, growing by 4.4 per cent. But that’s mostly a result of more American babies being born, according to Statistics Canada.
It’s the same case with France, where it was mostly births that swelled the country by 2.8 per cent.
Germany’s population, however, has declined by almost one per cent since 2006. In spite of that decline, Germany is being praised for its economic growth and the way it has outpaced its rivals.
Questions surrounding Canada’s immigration-fuelled growth strategy are especially important for urbanites. The census shows more than one out of three newcomers end up in the country’s three major cities: Toronto first, followed by Vancouver and then Montreal.
This sharp urbanization trend is intense in B.C., where seven out of 10 immigrants to the province head directly to Metro Vancouver.
The urban bias has caused Surrey to mushroom by 19 per cent, to 468,000. New Westminster has swelled by 12.7 per cent, Burnaby by 10.1 per cent and Richmond by 9.2 per cent.
Among other things, the arrival of so many newcomers has been linked with higher housing prices, one of the factors Kershaw cites for making it more expensive for young families to afford children.
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