Canada's aging population poses new challenges

Tue May 29, 2012 3:00pm EDT
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By Louise Egan

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada's population is aging fast, and the number of people over 65 hit a new record in 2011, official statistics showed on Tuesday, a trend that will steepen in coming years as baby boomers retire.

Canada's overall population remains younger than that of some of its biggest trading partners. But the growing number of elderly is still expected to put enormous pressure on the government to cover soaring healthcare and pension costs.

Census figures released on Tuesday showed that Canadians aged 65 or older represented 14.8 percent of the population in 2011, up from 13.7 percent five years earlier, for a total of nearly five million.

Yet Canada's population remains among the youngest in the G8 industrialized nations because the bulk of people in the post-war baby boom - those born between 1946 and 1965 - are still working, Statistics Canada said in its latest batch of census data.

"In 2011, only the United States and Russia had a lower proportion of seniors than Canada... The baby boom in Canada was larger than in many other G8 countries, and most baby boomers have not yet reached age 65," Statscan said.

Seniors accounted for 23.4 percent of the population in Japan - the world's oldest population; 16.5 percent in the United Kingdom; 13 percent in the United States and 12.9 percent in Russia.

But the demographics in Canada are at a turning point. Statscan projects that by 2016, the country will have more seniors than children for the first time in its history.

The age group on the cusp of retirement - 60 to 64 - grew 29.1 percent between 2006 and 2011, nearly five times faster than the overall population growth of 5.9 percent.   Continued...