Canada faces a big demographic shift over the next 50 years, with a growing number of seniors and a movement of people to Western Canada, says a report from Statistics Canada.

By the year 2063, Canada’s population could reach between 40 million and 63.5 million people, the agency says in a report projecting demographic changes over a 50-year period. For much of that time, the proportion of seniors in the population will expand. 

How much Canada’s population grows will depend on the amount of immigration and natural factors such as the birth and death rates.

But the trends identified by Statistics Canada reflect a shift in a labour market and in the need for services that will force both the public and private sector to change.

The number of seniors is expected to surpass the number of children by next year.

Baby boomers retire

The baby boomers — those born from 1946 to 1965 — will reach retirement age over the next two decades. That will raise the number of seniors in the population to an estimated 23.6 per cent by 2030, the year the youngest baby boomers turn 65. That compares with 15.3 per cent in 2013.

By 2063, the number of Canadians aged 80 years and over would reach nearly five million, compared with 1.4 million in 2013.

That trend will put huge demands on the resources for long-term care and home care by 2030, and will continue for the next 30 years. Older seniors are more likely to have health problems or need help to stay in their homes.

At the same time, the number of people between 15 to 64 — those of working age — will decline as a proportion of the population from 68.6 per cent in 2013 to 60 per cent in 2030. It could remain around 60 per cent for the next 30 years.

Depending on the strength of the Canadian economy and how technology changes the workplace, that could result in a shortage of labour. Businesses that offer only part-time work, with no prospects of a permanent stable income or benefits, would be forced to change their labour practices.

Those left in the workforce will also shoulder much of the burden of supporting the health-care sector.

Population shift to West

Statistic Canada also forecasts a significant shift of population to the West. Ontario would remain the most populous province, but population growth in Alberta would be the highest in the country.

Alberta will overtake British Columbia in population by 2038, when Statistics Canada estimates it will be home to 5.6 million to 6.8 million people, compared with four million in 2013. Saskatchewan and Alberta will draw the largest share of migration from other provinces.

The populations of B.C., Ontario and Quebec will grow mainly because of immigration, but Statistics Canada projects population in the Atlantic provinces will decline.

The Atlantic provinces and British Columbia would have the largest proportion of seniors in their population.

The population of Nunavut is projected to remain the youngest in Canada because of its high birth rate. The proportion of seniors aged 65 years and over would be nine per cent in 2038, compared with 3.5 per cent in 2013.