A Canadian demographer tracking fertility rates says Victoria Census Metropolitan Area (CMA) needs to plan for continued population growth, despite decreasing fertility, as it continues to attract new residents.
“As a society, we are no longer relying upon natural increase (births minus deaths) in maintaining population growth,” said Don Kerr, who teaches at the University of Western Ontario. “Migration has become more and more important. As a city, Victoria continues to have many young adults moving in, leaving for continued growth in the labour market.”
Without migration from inside and outside of Canada, the regional labour force would start to shrink, given the region’s current age structure. “There are currently more folks aged 55-64 than aged 15-24 in your city.”
Greater Victoria’s record-low fertility contrasts with population growth between 2016 and 2021, as the region grew by eight per cent to 397,237. During that same period, total deaths (18,404) exceeded live births (14,447) by nearly 4,000.
These figures will have consequences when it comes to the provision of different types of services.
“The fact that Victoria is seeing a steady decline in births over the last half-decade is noteworthy,” said Kerr. “It has simultaneously had an impact on the absolute numbers aged 0-4, which has also not only declined as a proportion but also in real terms. This will have implications for education (and) early child care.”
On the other hand, population growth driven by migration from inside and outside of Canada means the region will need to meet the increased demand for housing – a major challenge, as described by Kerr. “Your city will need to accommodate these newcomers and encourage it, or you will be facing some major labour shortages.”
This points to another aspect. The region’s population is not only growing in numbers but is also aging.
“Over the next 15 years we will see a steady climb in the number of retirees, both as a proportion of the population, and in absolute numbers,” said Kerr. In about 10 to 15 years, a lot of baby boomers will be moving into their later 70s with declining health, he added. “Some of these oldest age groups will be the fastest-growing, around the same time as smaller cohorts are entering into adulthood.” This trendline will have implications for local health care services, long-term care and accessibility among other issues.
Greater Victoria, in other words, must not only plan for more housing, but also for the provisions of services that respond to what Kerr described as a “top-heavy age pyramid.”
“At the national and provincial level, this aging is inevitable, even if we increase immigration substantially,” added Kerry. “Depending on your city (and) region, it might be a lesser problem due to the impact of migration with the movement of younger adults.”
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