Census 2021: Generations and Population Aging in Canada

2021 Census releases from Statistics Canada provide a generational lens on population aging.

May 3, 2022

Statistics Canada’s 2021 Census releases on age, sex at birth, and gender bring new clarity to our understanding of families, family diversity, and Canada’s evolving demographic landscape. In addition to being the world’s first Census to report on transgender and non-binary people, these new data provide insights on population aging in Canada through a generational lens.

Every generation brings with them their own values, expectations, and aspirations. They have distinct strengths and vulnerabilities, which shape and affect health and home care, housing, the labour market, care economy, and other systems and institutions important to family wellbeing. Understanding these dynamics is essential for the work of policy-makers, decision-makers, researchers, and others interested in families.

A generational portrait of Canada’s aging population from the 2021 Census provides a valuable “family lens” perspective on population aging. It shows that millennials now comprise a large part of the labour market, as older generations continue to retire.

Millennials on the rise in the workforce and in cities

  • In 2021, there were 7.9 million millennials in Canada, who accounted for approximately 1 in 5 Canadians (21%).1
  • National trends mask differences between provinces and territories. Millennials accounted for a greater-than-average share of the total population in Alberta (23%), Nunavut (24%), and Yukon and the Northwest Territories (approximately 25% each).
  • For the first time, millennials accounted for one-third (33%) of the working-age population (15 to 64), and are now its largest age group.
  • Factors such as stronger economic vitality and higher proportions of newcomers (half of whom have been millennials in recent years) contribute to the higher percentages of millennials in urban settings. They accounted for 35% of the downtown population of large urban centres in Canada, while 21% were baby boomers.

Canada is home to a growing number of older adults but trends differ across Canada

  • In 2021, 1 in 5 Canadians (19%) were aged 65 and older (7 million), and approximately 25% were baby boomers (9.2 million).
  • The main drivers of continued population aging are declining fertility (1.4 children per woman in 2020) and increasing life expectancy (81.7 years in 2020).
  • More than 1 in 5 (22%) working-age Canadians were aged 55 to 64, close to “retirement age” of 65. While many may continue past 65, this is higher than in any other Census.
  • Canadians aged 65 and older were most prevalent in Newfoundland and Labrador (24%) and Quebec (21%). Fewer than 1 in 20 people in Nunavut is 65 years and older (4%).
  • A lower proportion of people aged 65 and older lived in urban settings (18%) compared with rural areas (23%).

The reports show not only that the balance of age groups across provinces and territories varies considerably, but also that there isn’t “one story to tell” when it comes to family trends. Differences continue to widen due to changing fertility and migration trends, which need to be considered by those developing programs and policies designed to support family wellbeing. This data provides a clearer picture of Canadians that will help to address current needs and anticipate and prepare for what lies ahead.

On July 13, 2022, Statistics Canada is releasing Census 2021 content related to families and households in Canada.2 Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and/or LinkedIn for the “family lens” perspective!


  1. All percentages in this article have been rounded to the nearest percentage point.
  2. Statistics Canada will also be releasing content on the Canadian military experience and the income profile of Canadians on this date.
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