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The massive demographic shift that is reshaping Canada

The boomer shift

Who are the baby boomers?

Is Canada ready for the onslaught of retiring baby boomers?

The oldest boomers have recently hit retirement age, and millions more will join them in the coming 15 years, in what amounts to a massive demographic shift that could have major implications for the country.

In a weeklong series, The Globe and Mail will cover the boomer generation and how their spending, investing, health and lifestyle decisions could affect Canada's economy in the coming years.

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But first off: Who exactly are the baby boomers?

Their generation was born in the two decades following the Second World War – or between 1946 to 1965, according to Statistics Canada's definition. This year, the boomers turn 50 to 69 years old.

Not everyone uses this definition. Different countries experienced different boom periods, and even in Canada, there is disagreement over the range. For the purpose of this series, The Globe is using Statscan's definition to ensure data match the most commonly used statistics.

The boom

In 1946, the number of births surged 14.5 per cent over the previous year, thus kicking off the baby boom. During the two-decade boom period, more than 8.2 million babies were born, an average of more than 410,000 a year. The era ended in 1965 with a 7.8-per-cent drop in births.

Other booms

Here is how other countries define their baby booms.

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StartEndShare of total population at end of boom
Australia1946196538.5%
Austria1956196923.0%
Belgium1950196728.5%
Bulgaria1946195010.1%
Canada1946196542.3%
Denmark1946196633.9%
Finland1946195318.2%
France1946196737.0%
Germany1956196820.6%
Hungary1947195618.0%
Italy194619497.2%
Netherlands1946196537.9%
New Zealand1946197253.4%
Norway1946196939.0%
Sweden1946195313.0%
Switzerland1946196836.8%
U.K.*1956196820.8%
U.S.1946196437.4%

Source: Allianz

*Data for the U.K. is proxied by England and Wales

Fertility

Canada's total fertility rate peaked at 3.94 children per woman in 1959 and averaged 3.7 for the baby boom period, according to Statscan. The fertility rate has dropped significantly in subsequent decades, ebbing to 1.61 in 2011.

An immense generation

The boomers comprise a large portion of the Canadian population. In fact, their generation was the largest in Canada as of the 2011 census.

GenerationPopulationShare of total
1918 and before91,1950.3%
Parents of baby boomers (1919 to 1940)3,074,0459.2%
World War II generation (1941 to 1945)1,444,0354.3%
Baby boomers (1946 to 1965)9,564,21028.6%
Baby busters (1966 to 1971)2,823,8408.4%
Children of baby boomers (1972 to 1992)9,142,00527.3%
Generation Z (1993 to 2011)7,337,35021.9%

Source: Statistics Canada

Further, there are more than 5 million Canadians in their 50s, making that decade the largest 10-year age bracket in the country.

An aging Canada

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As the boomers have gotten older, so too has Canada. In 1965 – at the end of the boom period – the country's median age was 25.5 years. Today, it's 40.5 and will rise to 44.2 in 2063, assuming a medium-growth scenario.

This shift has led to a first for Canada: seniors now outnumber children – and the gap is expected to widen considerably.

Retirement

The ranks of seniors are set to swell in the coming years. The vast majority of boomers have yet to turn 65 – what it traditionally deemed as retirement age. All boomers will have turned 65 by the end of 2030.

As of July 1, more than 5.7 million Canadians were aged 65 and up. By 2063, more than 13 million Canadians will be seniors.

For more on the series, visit tgam.ca/boomershift and follow the conversation on Twitter at #GlobeBoomers.

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