Facts and Figures: Canadian Birth Rates
1. Core Knowledge:
Canada's fertility rate fell to a record low in 2000, following ten straight years of decline in the number of births. (Fertility rate = the average number of children a woman will have in her lifetime)
The fertility rate is currently 1.5 children per woman aged 15 to 49, well below the replacement rate of 2.1. This is among the lowest birth rates in the world, below Australia, France or Britain, but higher than Japan and Germany
2. Nice to Know
A total of 327,882 babies were born in 2000, the lowest number since 1946. This was down 2.8% from 337,249 in 1999. The number of live births fell everywhere except in the Northwest Territories, where it rose 2.1%.
The highest declines were in the Atlantic Provinces: down 4.9% in PEI, down 4.8% in Nova Scotia, 3.7% in Newfoundland and 3.5% in NB.
Fertility rates fell for women in all age groups under 35. The largest annual decrease in fertility occurred among teenagers. The fertility rate fell from 18.9 births for every 1,000 women aged 15 to 19 in 1999 to a new low of 17.3. In 2010, the average maternal age at all births was 29.7
Although fertility rates among women aged 35+ rose slightly, this was not large enough to offset the decreases among younger women.
The proportion of all live births that were to women aged 35 or over rose steadily from 8.2% in 1991 to 14.1% in 2000. The rates of preterm birth also rose, from about 6.6% in 1993 to 7.6% in 2002. (Public Health Agency of Canada. "Make every mother and child count" 2005.)
Why may these changes be happening?
What Effect Might it Have?
On the infant: The birth rate is highest among less educated women who tend to have children earlier, may more often be single parents, so there can sometimes be less financial and social stability for the child. The child could also receive less intellectual stimulation in the home environment, so gets a slow start in the educational race.
Demographic effects: The low fertility trap may be self-perpetuating: there will be fewer women in future to have the children that we need; young people have been socialized to believe in small families; the aging population will place tax burdens on the younger generation of workers, including women, some of whom may elect to go to work ratehr than have children.
Ethnic make-up and population diversity: One reaction is to increase immigration, but as most industrial countries have the same problem, this means that immigrants typically come from developing nations.
The most effective policy approach appears to be to help women maintain their careers, rather than merely offering them financial incentives to stay home and have children. In France, mothers of familles nombreuses (3+ kids) are offered rent subsidies, tax breaks, state funded parental leave and subsidies for extracurricular activities for their kids. The French fertility rate has risen from 1.8 to 2.0.
Will this work here? Are Canadian attitudes positive towards society subsidizing those who wish to have large families? Will employers tolerate the disruption of giving parental leave, perhaps for years at a time?
Quebec's policies now include child care subsidies and a monthly child benefit to help families integrate family responsibilities with remaining employed. These appear to have been effective in raising birth rates, by 10,000 more babies in 2006 compared with 2002. (Source: Maclean's Magazine, May 28, 2007, page 40.)
Japanese fertility rates have been below replacement rates since the mid-1950s.
European fertility rates fell below replacement in the mid 1970s, about the same time as Canada's.
How condoms are made: YouTube video
Cesarean section rates have been rising steadily. From 17.6% of all births in 1995, they rose to 21.1% in 2001 and 25.6% in 2004. The repeat Cesarean rate was 80% in 2004 (Source: Canadian Perinatal Health Report, 2008, p. 29).
Episiotomy rates are falling: 20.4% of women delivering vaginally had an episiotomy in 2004, compared to 31.1% in 1995 (Source: Canadian Perinatal Health Report, 2008, p. 29).
Multiple births rose from 2.2% of all births in 1995 to 3% in 2004. Much of the increase is due to the use of assisted reproductive technologies, which increased from 7,884 in 2001 to 11,086 in 2004 (Source: Canadian Perinatal Health Report, 2008, p. 31).
On a lighter note, the Ottawa Citizen (May 9, 2004) pointed out that birth rates are higher in more religious places (e.g., 90 births per thousand women of child-bearing age in Utah per year, contrasted to 49 per thousand in Vermont). A similar trend holds in Canada, where those who attend church regularly are 46% more likely to have a third child. The US, which is among the most religious countries in the world, has the highest fertility rate among industrial nations. Like Christianity, Judaism and Islam have each placed restrictions on birth control practices, whereas Buddhism and Hinduism appear not to do so.
The International Decline in birth rates; Maternal mortality;
Breast Feeding in Canada; Maternal Smoking; Maternal Alcohol Consumption
PPT diagram showing preterm birth rates and stillbirths by maternal age
Basic Statistics on Canadian Population
Updated August 7, 2014