July 23, 2021

Weekly EconMinute—Median age across provinces

In this week’s EconMinute, we’re talking about the median age across provinces.

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Like many countries, Canada is seeing its population age as the baby boomer generation gets older and birth rates decline. The median age of Canadians has increased from 37 in 2000 to 41 in 2020. 

The relative age of the population is important for two main economic reasons.

One reason is that an older population can strain government finances: it means higher health care costs and pension payouts and lower government revenues via personal income taxes.

A second reason is that an older population will increase what is known as the dependency ratio: the share of seniors and children relative to the share of the working-age population. The greater the number of retirees, the more the work and resources of an economy will need to be designated to this group—to things like hospitals and long-term care facilities.

That said, an ageing population can also present a major opportunity for innovation and a rethink of essential infrastructure, city planning, and community zoning so Canadians can healthily age in place.

So how quickly is the Alberta population ageing compared to other provinces?

  • 20 years ago, Alberta was an outlier with a population younger than any other province with a median age of just 34. Now, Alberta’s median age is in line with Saskatchewan and Manitoba at about 38. 
  • Though Alberta’s population has aged, it remains relatively young compared with most other provinces, especially those on the east coast. Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia all have a median age of 45 or above.
  • Alberta’s population projections expect median age to increase to about 42 by 2046.
  • Seniors in Alberta (aged 65 and over) currently represent about 14% of the population; that is expected to rise to 20% by 2046. At that point there will be more seniors than children under 15.  
  • Now, there are around 48 dependents for every 100 Alberta residents of working age whereas in 2045, this number expected to reach 58.

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