Who is going to care for Canadian senior citizens in 20 years’ time? The
changing ratio of elderly to children projected by Statistics Canada is sobering
reading. Derek Miedema, of the Institute of Marriage and Family Canada, warns in
a
recent newsletter
that the government has to begin preparing for a
demographic winter now.

… by 2015, seniors will outnumber children in Canada. To put a finer point
on it: in 2005 Statistics Canada estimated that there were 135 children per 100
seniors in Canada. In 2031, they estimate that there will be between 54 and 71
children per 100 seniors depending on how the population grows or declines
between now and then.

The traditional structure of Canada’s population isn’t quite turned on it’s
head, but it’s shoulders are getting sore.

The aging of Canada’s society hasn’t happened suddenly, or for one simple
reason. Canadians are living longer; this will mean more people live longer past
the age of 65. Families are choosing to have fewer children, and later in life.
This means both fewer caregivers for our seniors and the eventual need for
today’s children to juggle the needs of their own kids and their parents
simultaneously.

The last time that Canadians reproduced themselves – a birthrate of 2.1 – was
in 1971. Currently the birthrate is about 1.6. "An average of approximately
100,000 abortions per year since 2000 hasn’t helped matters," notes Miedma.

Nor will immigration help to rejuvenate the Canada’s demographic profile.
According to James Bissett, former head of the Immigration Foreign Service, "No
credible demographer believes the aging issue can be solved through
immigration."

The great unanswered question is: how are we going to cope with massive
numbers of elderly? "We know from current healthcare costs that the government
alone cannot sustain the current level of care on the wages of fewer working
citizens," says Miedma. So families and communities will have to share more of
the burden.

It’s quite sensible. But who is working out the details of this huge social
change. Will the single child of aged parents be able to cope? Willing to cope?
Will ambitious young workers cheerfully pay more tax to care for other people’s
parents? Canada is hardly the only country to face this problem. But the
response of governmetns is beginning to look like the post-invasion planning for
the Iraq War. ~ Institute of Marriage and Family Canada; hat tip to Jennifer
Roback Morse

Michael Cook

Michael Cook is the editor of MercatorNet.