Edmonton·Data

There could be over 3M more people living in Alberta by 2046. Here's what that looks like

Alberta’s population could grow by over three million people and have much more seniors over the next 25 years, projections recently released by the provincial government suggest.

1-in-5 Albertans are expected to be seniors in the next 25 years

Alberta's population could grow by about 1.2 million to over three million people over the next 25 years, projections from the provincial government suggest. (CBC)

Alberta's population could grow by over three million people over the next 25 years, projections recently released by the provincial government suggest.

The Alberta government develops population projections to get a sense of how the province could change over a certain period of time. The projections for 2021-2046 were released publicly July 2.

The province created three growth scenarios — low, medium and high — to project population growth of males and females, from newborns to people at least 90 years old. The projections are based on 2016 census data. Data from the 2021 census will roll out next February.

"The projected growth will be lower than the 1.9 per cent experienced over the previous 25-year period (1995 to 2020), due to population aging and slower gains in migration," says a report about the projections.

There are currently over 4.4 million people living in Alberta, quarterly estimates from Statistics Canada show. In Alberta's low-growth scenario, the population grows by about 1.2 million to over 5.6 million people by 2046.

The medium-growth scenario shows the population will grow by nearly two million to almost 6.4 million.

The high-growth scenario shows the population will inflate by over three million to nearly 7.5 million people.

People migrating to Alberta will drive growth 

The scenarios presented suggest there could be between 9,600 to just over 50,200 more males than females living in Alberta in 2046, and that migration — mainly people coming from other countries — will drive the growth.

The medium-growth scenario suggests migration will account for 69 per cent of the population inflation.

Migration, however, depends on "a number of factors," including how Alberta's economy is doing relative to other provinces, the report says.

Alberta was already recovering from a recession in 2015 when the COVID-19 pandemic and a collapse in oil prices "sent the economy into an unprecedented contraction in 2020," the report says.

Travel restrictions implemented during the pandemic have also hampered immigration. Though, as vaccination rates rise in Canada and globally, immigration should increase in the coming years, the report says.

Increased immigration targets by the federal government should also help, it adds.

Albertans will be older, live longer by 2046

The growth scenarios predict Alberta's population will become older and live longer over the next 25 years.

More than 638,000 people aged 65 or older are estimated to be living in Alberta right now. Each growth scenario predicts that demographic to about double by 2046, as baby boomers get older and gen-Xers retire.

Under the medium-growth scenario, one in five Albertans will be seniors by 2046.

The average Albertan is expected to be 41.5 years old in 2046 — an increase of about three years stemming from aging boomers.

Life expectancies of males and females are each expected to increase by several years too. The average Alberta girl born in 2020 is expected to live 83.9 years; a boy 79.2 years.

Over the next quarter century, females are expected to live to 87, while males are expected to reach 83.7 years old.

Seniors are also expected to live about two years longer in 2046 than they do now.

An aging population and increased life expectancy will lead to a heavier dependence on working-age Albertans — a demographic expected to shrink slightly by 2046 — and health-care facilities.

Natural increase of Alberta's population — births versus deaths — will also have less impact on population growth over time, because the number of people dying is expected to eventually outweigh the number of newborns.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nicholas Frew is an online reporter with CBC Edmonton. Hailing from Newfoundland, Frew moved to Halifax to attend journalism school. He has worked for CBC newsrooms in Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Prior to joining the CBC, he interned at the Winnipeg Free Press.

now