More deaths than births in Greater Victoria
If not for migration, Greater Victoria’s population would have otherwise shrunk in 2021. Over 1,600 more people died than were born in the Capital Region from July 2020 to July 2021, according to Statistics Canada. There were 4,157 deaths and just 2,906 births—or roughly 1.4 deaths for every birth.
The Victoria Capital Daily reports that the numbers are in line with a trend that now spans two decades, according to the Chartered Professional Accountants of BC: There aren’t enough people being born to replace those who are dying.
It’s a trend that’s even starker Island-wide, where the number of deaths outpaced the number of births by 2,406 in 2020. This gap has more than doubled since 2016.
But the population overall still grew—that’s because in 2020, more than 12,000 newcomers moved to the Island from elsewhere in Canada or the world.t Local
‘We need to attract immigrants’
With immigration, Greater Victoria’s population has still grown by 25.5 per cent in the same timeframe.
With a record-low fertility rate, this migration is needed, according to what Lindalee Brougham, CPA’s media spokesperson, said in a release. “With one of the lowest rates in Canada, we need to attract immigrants to grow our population.”
According to Statistics Canada, Greater Victoria’s fertility rate was 0.95 in 2020, the lowest in all of Canada.
But immigration doesn’t change the fact that with 22 per cent of Greater Victorians over 65 years old, the region has one of the oldest populations in Canada. Don Kerr, a demographer who teaches at Kings University College at Western University, told Capital Daily in November that “international migration does not have a very large impact upon this aging,” because people of all ages move across borders, not only the young.
An aging population means that labour shortages, already a prominent issue on the Island, could worsen. Further, with roughly an eighth of the population under the age of 15, there will be less and less people to help aging family members. As we reported in May, many working-aged people are also leaving Greater Victoria for greener (and cheaper) pastures north of the Malahat—or off the Island entirely.
Fertility rate isn’t affected by the age of a population—it is different from births per capita. Fertility rate is measured in a way that considers age specific fertility and standardizes for age differences. Birth rate is the number of births per thousand of the entire population. But the fact remains that Victorians are having fewer kids.
Affordability, COVID causing people to forgo having children
More and more Victorians are choosing to postpone parenthood or skip it altogether. Affordability is a major detriment for many young families. The cost of living is skyrocketing: inflation was 7.7 per cent in May, a benchmark single family home was worth $1.19 million in June, and Victorians were paying about $2,823 per month for a two-bedroom apartment this July.
Further, with double incomes all but necessary to raise children, childcare is an essential component of having a family. Not only is this an additional cost, but it is also hard to find. A Vital Signs report found just one in five respondents said that they have excellent or good access to affordable child care. As of 2021, the South Island has 13,703 licensed childcare spaces, which is only enough for a quarter of its kids.
COVID-19 might also have changed people’s ideas about having kids. According to Statistics Canada, more than one in five people aged 15 to 49 in 2021 changed their family planning because of the pandemic. Nineteen percent said they want to have fewer kids because of it. It remains to be seen if this is a temporary impact or not.
While Victoria is the most extreme example, it is indicative of a larger trend across Canada. Fertility rates have been steadily declining across the country since 2009.