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October 10, 2023

Fertility Rate in Canada Fell to (Another) Record Low in 2022

New data shows Canada’s fertility rate is at (another) new record low.

October 10, 2023

Nathan Battams

According to new data published by Statistics Canada, the fertility rate dropped to another record low. In 2022, the total fertility rate (TFR) was 1.33 children per woman, down from 1.41 in 2021 and the previous low of 1.40, which was observed in 2020 during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic.1 This continues a near-consecutive annual decline that has taken place since 2009, when it was 1.69 children per woman.

The fertility rate in 2022 ranged from a low of 1.11 children per woman in British Columbia to a high of 2.23 children per woman in Nunavut. Between 2009 and 2022, the fertility rate fell in all provinces and territories except Nunavut. The fertility rate in Nunavut during this period ranged between 3.18 and 2.80 children per woman (2009 and 2019, respectively), before falling to its all-time low of 2.23 by 2022.2

Canada’s fertility rate has notably declined since 2019, fuelled in part by the COVID-19 pandemic and economic uncertainty. Among Canadians aged 25 to 44 surveyed in summer 2021, approximately one in seven (14%) said they wanted to have fewer children than before because of the pandemic.3 One in five (18%) said they wanted to have a child later than previously planned because of the pandemic.

While COVID-19 is no longer considered a global emergency,4 a great deal of uncertainty remains for couples, such as rising inflation, affordability, and the high cost of housing. Ana Fostik, PhD, an analyst at Statistics Canada, had noted in 2020 that “economic downturns and recessions, labour market uncertainty and, more broadly, general societal uncertainty and negative expectations about the future have all been associated with a postponement of childbearing plans, and thus with reductions in the number of births within a population.”5

Survey data show uncertainty is on the minds of many young adults. In 2022, nearly four in 10 Canadians aged 20 to 29 (38%) said they did not believe they could afford to have a child in the next three years. Nearly one-third (32%) did not believe they would have access to suitable housing to start a family in this time.6

Other uncertainties and anxieties are also playing a role, including those related to climate change. Studies have shown that many adults of childbearing age are rethinking the impact of global environmental events and related health risks on a new generation of children who will be disproportionately affected by the climate crisis.7 When Gen Z and Millennials in Canada were asked in a recent Leger survey whether or not they wanted to have children, more than one in 10 respondents (11%) answered, “No, I’m not comfortable bringing children into the world in a climate crisis.”8

Fluctuating fertility rates are nothing new, and this current decline has been under way for more than a decade (to say nothing of the shift that has taken place since the baby boom). However, the multiple setting of record lows over the last decade—coupled with continued population aging—have led to some concerns about the impact of progressively smaller generations. As families shrink, there are fewer people in younger generations available to provide care and support. It also concentrates wealth and financial resources, as inheritances and other financial resources are left to fewer hands. There are also labour market implications, as Canada begins to rely increasingly on immigration to balance the number of younger and older workers.

It remains to be seen whether or not the fertility rate in Canada will continue to fall in the coming years, or if a post-pandemic rebound is somewhere around the corner. This picture will become clearer as new Vital Statistics and survey data are released.

Nathan Battams is a Knowledge Mobilization Specialist at the Vanier Institute of the Family.


Notes

  1. Statistics Canada. Fertility indicators, provinces and territories: Interactive dashboard. Online catalogue no. 71-607-X. https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/71-607-x/71-607-x2022003-eng.htm
  2. Ibid.
  3. Fostik, A., & Galbraith, N. (2021, December 1). Changes in fertility intentions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. StatCan COVID-19: Data to Insights for a Better Canada. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 45280001. https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/45-28-0001/2021001/article/00041-eng.htm
  4. World Health Organization. (2023, May 5). WHO Director-General’s opening remarks at the media briefing – 5 May 2023. https://www.who.int/news-room/speeches/item/who-director-general-s-opening-remarks-at-the-media-briefing—5-may-2023
  5. Fostik, A. (2020, June 30). Uncertainty and postponement: Pandemic impact on fertility in Canada. Vanier Institute of the Family. https://vanierinstitute.ca/uncertainty-and-postponement-pandemic-impact-on-fertility-in-canada/
  6. Statistics Canada. (2023, September 20). Navigating socioeconomic obstacles: Impact on the well-being of Canadian youth. The Daily. https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/daily-quotidien/230920/dq230920a-eng.htm
  7. Smith, D. M., Sales, J., Williams, A., & Munro, S. (2023). Pregnancy intentions of young women in Canada in the era of climate change: A qualitative auto-photography study. BMC Public Health, 23(766). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-023-15674-z
  8. Leger 360. (2023, September 27). 2023 Youth Study Report: Millennials and Gen Z’s Employment, Finances, and Future. https://leger360.com/surveys/2023-youth-study-report-millennials-and-gen-zs-employment-finances-and-future