This blog is intended to go along with Population: An Introduction to Concepts and Issues, by John R. Weeks, published by Cengage Learning. The latest edition is the 13th (it will be out in January 2020), but this blog is meant to complement any edition of the book by showing the way in which demographic issues are regularly in the news.

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Thursday, May 4, 2017

Canada's Demographic Disaster or Dividend?

You may have seen the news over the past couple of days that Canada's seniors outnumber children for the first time ever. The Canadian Broadcasting Company presented this story in terms of an impending disaster.
There are now 5.9 million Canadian seniors, compared to 5.8 million Canadians 14 and under. This is due to the historic increase in the number of people over 65 — a jump of 20 per cent since 2011 and a significantly greater increase than the five per cent growth experienced by the population as a whole.
"As people get older, they need more health care, more home care, and that puts increasing demands on government spending," says Dr. Frances Woolley, economics professor at Carleton University in Ottawa. "There are big challenges for the government coming on the fiscal side."
But thanks to Abu Daoud for linking me to another story from CTV News noting that Canada's demographic dividend hasn't yet ended. The population aged 15-64 is still large relative to the younger and older populations and that's a good thing.
That gives Canada a few more years to benefit from what Statistics Canada calls a "demographic dividend": a growing labour force while other countries watch theirs shrink. Eventually the numbers will decline in Canada as well, once populations age and retirements take hold, said Statistics Canada demographer Andre Lebel.
Projections about how long Canada will benefit from those dividends depends in part on immigration, which is the key to the modest gains thus far in the labour force, said Doug Norris, chief demographer at Environics Analytics.
Much will also depend on the sorts of policy decisions officials have wrestled with for years as they seek to prevent a coming crush of retirements from triggering an economic slowdown.
And the last point is especially important. Demography is destiny only in the sense that if you know what the possible demographic trajectories are, you can make plans to avoid the poor outcomes and enhance the better outcomes. That's what population policy is all about. 

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