Showing posts with label québec. Show all posts
Showing posts with label québec. Show all posts

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Some demography-related links for the New Year

I've been collecting a few interesting links--articles, blog posts--for some time. Longer thematic essays will come--Ukraine interests me significantly, for instance, as do some of the topics raised here--but for now here's a selection of what I've been reading.
  • First off, writing at io9, George Dvorsky argues that extreme human longevity won't destroy the planet. The Atlantic, meanwhile, featured an article by Jean Twenge arguing that popular wisdom on female fertility is wrong, that in fact it's substantially easier for women in their late 30s and even early 40s to conceive than ill-founded statistics would have it.
  • Crooked Timber had two posts in November taking a look at the risks faced by clandestine migrants, one on overland Mexican route and one on the overseas route to Australia.
  • In East Asia, meanwhile, the National Interest has warned that the aging and shrinking Japanese population may weaken Japan vis-a-vis China (the Japan Daily Press noting that births have reached all-time lows in the modern era while deaths have reached all-time highs). The Economist's Buttonwood blog uses Japan's fate to meditate on the future of advanced economies.
  • Elsewhere in the region, the Taipei Times notes South Korea's continuing problems with integrating immigrants--at least working-class immigrants; according to the Want China Times, investor-class immigrants are doing quite well in Jeju island. The Diplomat observes that immigration from Africa is creating a sizable enclave of immigrants in Guangdong, while Marginal Revolution cited an authority who claimed that one child in five was growing up without their parents, migrant workers in the city.
  • In the Middle East, a post by Noel Maurer at The Power and the Money on Syrian refugees caught my attention: of the huge number of forced emigrants, many live in Lebanon, where one resident in three is now Syrian.
  • In Singapore, Marginal Revolution examined inequality in Singapore and that city-state's very low birth rate (I think there's a connection), while the Wall Street Journal's Southeast Asia blog wondered if very high rates of immigration are aggravating internal issues.
  • NPR, looking to southern Europe, observed Portugal's baby bust and commented on the return of mass emigration in Greece. Eurasianet has observed that Latvia is trying to shut down an investor-class residency program that has been quite attractive to migrants from the former Soviet Union, particularly Russians and Central Asians, part of an effort to avoid a Cypriot-style economic bubble.
  • According to Presseurop and the Financial Times, meanwhile, strong economic growth in Poland is starting to attract large numbers of immigrants to that country. (This immigration, it should be noted, exists alongside still high levels of emigration to western Europe.)
  • France, a country of emigration? Le Nouvel Economiste warns (in French) that France risks losing its underemployed young, while a Business Week report profiles French workers who commute across the Rhine to work in Germany.
  • I rather liked Jamie Mackay's Open Democracy essay explaining how Chinese migrants in Venice were being used as scapegoats for the problems of that city (and country, by extension?).
  • In Canada, a recent book by Bob Plamondon critical of long-time Liberal prime minister Pierre Trudeau has made the argument that the shift in immigration under his rule, specifically shifting priorities from skilled workers towards family reunification, diminished the benefits of immigration.
  • Le Devoir discusses (in French) the demographic challenges of Québec, with a rising (if sub-replacement) fertility rate and consistent problems in attracting immigrants. (This came out before the recent CBC report highlighting rising outmigration from la belle province.) In Ontario, meanwhile, the low birth rate means that the cohorts of new university students--as noted in MacLean's--will start to fall.
  • The Atlantic Cities had an extended essay by Howard W. French talking about how the growth of African cities, in population and in economic weight and in governance, would reshape the map of the continent.
  • The Atlantic Wire and the Washington Post both reported the recent American census finding that population increase in the United States is concentrated among non-white populations; white populations have started to experience negative decrease.
  • On the topic of diasporas and ethnic identities, the Volokh Conspiracy linked to a study suggesting that 27% of Jewish children in the United States lived in Orthodox homes, suggesting that Orthodox Jewish birth rates are such that the Orthodox share of the Jewish community will grow sharply. (I've read of similar findings in the United Kingdom.)
  • Window on Eurasia has a lot of interesting posts. Paul Goble noted that projected populations for most of the former Soviet republics made two decades ago are vastly overstated, the Central Asian republics being the big exception, and arguing that Russia has only a short time to deal with its, temporarily stabilized, demographic disequilibrium. (The Chechen birth rate is reportedly quite high, making it an exception; five of the seven republics of the North Caucasus now have sub-replacement fertility rates.)

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

A brief note on Bricker and Ibbitson's The Big Shift


Marginal Revolution's Tyler Cowen cited yesterday The Big Shift: The Seismic Change In Canadian Politics, Business, And Culture And What It Means For Our Future, by Canadians Darrell Bricker and John Ibbitson. Their thesis?

The political, media and business elites of Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal ran this country for almost its entire history. But in the last few years, they have lost their power, and most of them still do not realize it’s gone. The Laurentian Consensus, a name John Ibbitson coined for the dusty liberal elite, has been replaced by a new, powerful coalition based in the West and supported by immigrant voters in Ontario. So what happened?

Great global migrations have washed over Canada. Most people are unaware that the keystone economic and political drivers of this country are now Western Canada and the immigrants from China, India, and other Asian countries who increasingly are turning Ontario into a Pacific-oriented province. Those in politics and business have greatly underestimated how conservative these newcomers are, and how conservative they are making our country. Canada, with an ever-evolving and growing economy and a constantly changing demographic base, has become divorced from the traditions of its past and is moving in an entirely new direction.

In The Big Shift, John Ibbitson and Darrell Bricker argue that one of the world’s most consensual countries is polarizing, with the west versus the east, suburban versus urban, immigrants versus old school, coffee drinkers versus consumers of energy drinks. The winners—in politics, in business, in life—will figure out where the people are and go there too.


(The quote that caught Cowen's attention was a projection: "In Toronto, 63 percent of the population will be foreign born by 2031…In Vancouver, the foreign-born population will be 59 percent." That figure doesn't sound off.)

I haven't read the book, so I can't comment authoritatively. What I can say is that the thesis isn't obviously wrong. The Conservatives have had significant success in breaking the traditionally close relationship of the (in my opinion) slowly dying Liberal Party's support among recent immigrants, while the traditionally more centrist and left-wing central Canadian region has been relative decline as Alberta--as we've noted here for the past seven years--leads western Canada in experiencing very strong economic and population growth. My two May 2011 posts reacting to the 2011 election (1, 2) could be read as suggesting some sort of ideological polarization of the country between a Conservative-leaning west and a NDP-leaning centre. At the very least the book seems worth a look.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

A few population-related news links


This evening, I thought I'd share a few interesting population-related news links I've collected in the past couple of weeks.

* The Discover Magazine blog 80 Beats summarized a recent study of young game-playing children in Beijing suggesting that these children are less trusting and more risk-averse than one might expect.

* On a perhaps-related note, an article in the latest issue of The National Interest by John Lee examines at length the consequences of China's rapid aging on its economic model, among other things.

* An article in The Guardian contrasting a relatively prosperous Chinese northeast with a stagnant Russian Far East makes the point that Russia need not fear millions of Chinese crossing their country's northern frontier. What incentives would there be for them to leave?

* The Taipei Times covered a recent statement by the head of the South Korean central bank calling for more immigration to ameliorate the effects of population aging.

* An Inter Press Service article notes that rising life expectancy for Japanese women is, unfortunately, being accompanied by falling incomes.

* The Population Reference Bureau's Behind the Numbers blog notes that birth rates have continued to decline throughout India.

* In Canada, a recent article in The Globe and Mail notes that there's an east-to-west income gradient for immigrants in Canada, immigrants in Québec enjoying substantially lower wages than their counterparts in Ontario who in turn earn less than their counterparts in western Canada.

* In the Atlantic Canadian province of Nova Scotia, meanwhile, the provincial government is trying to boost its attractiveness to immigrants in the face of declining immigrant numbers and a local population tending to decrease.

* In Europe, the Portuguese-American Journal notes that statistics indicate that more than one million Portuguese have left the country in the past fourteen years. This sort of emigration, which if anything seems to be accelerating, has obvious consequences.

* In the nearby Spanish region of Galicia, the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation's Swissinfo takes a look, in the article "From Galicia to the Jura", at one community in Galicia that has been marked by emigration to Switzerland as a natural life stage for a half-century. (Likewise, emigration isn't slowing down.)

* A New York Times article profiles the Chinese of Barcelona, who have apparently so far resisted the effects of the Eurozone recession well.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The problems with sub-national immigration policies

Earlier this month, the Burgh Diaspora reflected on the history of immigration to the United States, the variant forms of immigration sought by different states, the tensions between different American states over differing attitudes towards immigration and immigrants, and made a proposal: why not let subnational entities control their own immigration policies?

I think we should embrace the anti-federalist mood swing. Allow states such as Pennsylvania to embrace talent immigration as each sees fit. Better yet, let cities decide. H-1B visas effectively tie foreign born labor to the employer through sponsorship. Municipalities could act in the same capacity, making the visa contingent on urban residence and site of work. Various schemes could be concocted to enhance geographic mobility. Green cards would issued after a few years, well before the end of the federal queue.


This does make a certain amount of sense. In the realm of actually existing subnational immigration policies, I'm most familiar with that of Québec, where--as I wrote in June of last year--concerns over the growth of English led to the adoption of a policy explicitly favouring Francophone and French-leaning immigrants over others (French and Senegalese and Congolese versus Britons and Indians and Guyanese, say). This shift has arguably made immigration more popular in Québec, removing the fears of language shift from French, and has the potential to provide Québec with the workers--including skilled workers--that it will need as the provincial population ages. The rest of Canada obviously doesn't share the priorities of Québec and wouldn't be as responsive to local concerns. So, inasmuch as the subnational jurisdiction of Québec's control over immigration policies go, it seems a relative success.

The problems with sub-national immigration policies? Immigrants don't necessarily fit the slots allotted to them. As I noted above, the gap between immigrant and native-born wages in Québec is even worse than in the rest of Canada, a product of many things including the non-recognition of skilled workers and difficulties with social integration. In many cases, it's not especially clear that local control over immigration would be an improvement.

The second problem is that of mobility. For municipalities to have control over immigration, as the above blog goes on to sugget, strikes me as a very bad policy move. Immigrants have to be mobile, geographically as well as socially, and a municipality doesn't necessarily offer sufficient scope. In Québec the overwhelming majority of immigrants may be concentrated in Montréal, but this isn't because they're forced to live there. Rather, immigrants are concentrated in Montréal because that's where immigrant communities have formed neighbourhoods, dense social networks, and the like. Restrictions on mobility are especially problematic if--as some propose--immigrants are assigned residences in hinterlands in an effort to try to boost stagnant or declining populations. The waste of potential in those cases is arguably as much a moral problem as an economic one.

Finally, there's the question of whether immigrants will stay in their localities once probationary periods are up. My native Prince Edward Island has an immigrant retention rate of 25%; for cited reasons of wages (the poorest province in Canada) and social integration, most immigrants do not stay. Many sub-national jurisdictions may not keep as many immigrants as planned--in Canada, the differences between the have and have-not provinces on this metric is notable.

In conclusion? Sub-national immigration may be a useful idea, but it's one that definitely has its serious issues. It may produce short-term gains, but those gains can quickly be dissipated with bad planning and bad underlying conditions. Beware.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

How demographics shaped the 2011 Canadian federal election

My previous post here touched upon the remarkable consequences of the Canadian federal election held last Monday. The New Democratic Party made massive breakthroughs, especially in Québec, to become the official opposition, while the separatist Bloc Québécois was devastated (from 47 to 4 seats) and the Liberal Party was more than halved. Maps do a good job of illustrating this transformation. Copied from here, this map shows the distribution of seats following the 2008 federal election in Canada. Blue is for the Conservatives, red for the Liberals, orange for the New Democratic Party, and teal for the Bloc Québécois.

Results of 2008 federal election, Canada

Here is a map showing the results of the 2011 election.

Results of 2011 federal election, Canada

Population changes played a major role in this outcome. Take voter turnout, which rose 2.3% from 59.1% in 2008 to 61.4% this time. The low voter turnout is a major concern for Canadians, but so far no one has come up with a solution. Disenchantment with politics is pervasive.

The NDP made massive gains, going from 36 to 108 seats (by comparison, the previous peak was 43 seats in 1988). Many established parties were displaced. My own downtown Toronto riding of Davenport, represented by Liberal parliamentarians since 1962, switched massively over to the New Democratic Party, the NDP candidate outpolling the Liberal incumbent by 2:1. Davenport, with a large Portuguese-Canadian community, has traditionally voted Liberal. Why the change?

The Davenport riding is in transition. As Portuguese-Canadians become prosperous and move to the suburbs, the gentrification that has taken over The Annex neighbourhood is spreading west into Davenport. Since I've moved here, a townhouse complex has been built on the other side of the street, while an artists' community centre is by the laundry and any number of old storefronts about being converted into residential units.

Store made house (3)

It may not be that whereas Liberal Mario Silva made his name partly through his aid to immigrants, the NDP's Andrew Cash first came to attention as a punk rocker, then as a journalist for the alternative press. And yes, you probably won't be surprised to hear that I voted NDP myself. I was frustrated with the Liberal Party and wanted a change. Clearly, I was not alone.

One very notable instance of demographics on the election--here, the tendency of Québec to vote as a bloc and to swing massively from one party to another was the massive success enjoyed by the NDP, which crushed the Bloc Québécois and won 58 of the province's 75 seats. By way of comparison, before the election the NDP had only one seat in Québec, in Montréal. Québécois seem to have tired of the Bloc, and voted for the only other party in massive numbers. The NDP didn't have to try: one candidate, a unilingual Anglophone who spent a good part of the campaign in Las Vegas on vacation and hasn't even visited her rising beat a 13 years' incumbent.

What's very interesting about this is that the NDP is now the dominant party of French Canada, not just Québec. I wrote earlier here about the substantial assimilation facing most Francophone populations outside of Québec, but for the time being there are close to a million Francophones in adjacent Ontario and New Brunswick. These populations also voted substantially for the NDP. Taken from Wikimedia here, the below is an edited map showing electoral outcomes in central and eastern Canada, with maps of outcomes in the three Canadian cities with the largest Francophone populations (in descending order, Montréal, Québec City, and Ottawa-Gatineau) added.

2011 election results, eastern Canada

Even Francophone neighbourhoods in Ottawa voted for the NDP.

What this means, given the weakness of the governing Conservatives in the province, is that the NDP is the only political party to have large numbers of members in both French Canada and English Canada. If the party can assimilate its new huge cohort, this straddling the language frontier could well make it an inevitable party of government.

Finally, here in Toronto the Conservatives pierced what was once a Liberal stronghold and split the city with the NDP. The first map below shows the situation before the election; the second shows the situation after the election.

20081014_GTA_results[1]

201152-2011-GTA-ridings[1]

This division corresponds substantially to the geographical divisions manifested in Toronto's recent mayoral election, where the left-wing George Smitherman held the downtown but the right-wing Rob Ford carried the day with the outer peripheries of the city: as described by the "Three Torontos" paradigm, poorer, more multiethnic, and with more problems about a left-leaning city government that didn't seem to do much for them. These areas traditionally voted Liberal federally--for instance, the Portuguese Canadians--because the Liberal Party is the one responsible for the lifting of discriminatory immigration legislation and the introduction of multicultural policies in the 1970s. As immigrant communities have become larger and more stable, and the Conservative Party has made efforts to appeal through social and economic conservatism, many of their members have switched allegiances to the Conservative Party. While a good marker of assimilation, this is not good for the Liberals.

What does all this mean? Considering the Conservative Party's gains in Ontario, and the NDP's massive success in Québec and substantial improvement in the rest of Canada, the future of the Liberal Party as a potential party of government is in doubt. Without any particularly coherent geographic or communal base and no longer the party of central Canada's cities (and patches elsewhere), how can it succeed? As for Québec, the effective destruction of the Bloc Québécois and the defection of Québécois voters en masse to the federalist NDP may signal significant reverses for the local separatist movement.

It is exciting times for Canadian politics. Demographics both established and changing can be thanked for a good chunk of it.

Monday, December 20, 2010

On sputtering integration in Toronto

One of the less cheerful tags ar my personal blog is "three torontos". The tag comes from a phrase in the title of a 2007 report by the University of Toronto's David Hulchanski, who found that Toronto's neighbourhoods could be divided into three categories based on patterns of income growth: neighbourhoods which saw significant income growth over the 1970-2000 period; neighbourhods which more-or-less stagnated (growth or decline of less than 20%); and, neighbourhoods which saw significant income decline. These divisions map onto enduring social, geographic, and ethnic divisions in Toronto, onto any number of patterns like the distribution of cyclists, voting in the recent municipal election, and the boundaries of the once-autonomous communities in an amalgamated Toronto. A follow-up study, available here and covered in the Globe and Mail by Anna Mehler Papierny, suggests that on the balance of existing trends Toronto's going to be polarized into two areas, have and have-nots.



Toronto is becoming a city of stark economic extremes as its middle class is hollowed out and replaced by a bipolar city of the rich and poor – one whose lines are drawn neighbourhood by neighbourhood.

New numbers indicate a 35-year trend toward economic polarization is growing more pronounced: The country’s economic engine, which has long claimed to be one of the most diverse cities in the world, is increasingly comprised of downtown-centred high-income residents – most living near subway lines – and a concentration of low-income families in less dense, service- and transit-starved inner suburbs.

Three years ago, University of Toronto professor David Hulchanski published a paper on Toronto’s “Three Cities,” illustrating a growing socioeconomic disparity among the city’s census tracts. But the three-way divide Prof. Hulchanski and his fellow Cities Centre researchers described is swiftly being reduced to two, according to a new paper they will release Wednesday. Toronto, a predominantly middle-class metropolis just three decades ago, is increasingly dominated by two opposite populations – one with an average income of $88,400, and another of $26,900.

These two groups live in different neighbourhoods, work in different sectors, send their children to different schools and have divergent and unequal access to city services and public transit. Even the 905-area suburbs outside of Toronto are seeing a dramatic drop in the proportion of middle-income earners in their population, the report finds.

Those in the lowest-income areas are also more likely to be immigrants and visible minorities.

“It’s only going to become worse,” Prof. Hulchanski said. If the trend continues, the paper suggests, Toronto in 2025 will have a concentration of high-earners along the lakefront and the city’s subway lines surrounded by low-income areas – with almost nothing in between.

[. . .]

It also seems to contradict Toronto’s most prized mottos – “Diversity our strength” and “The city that works.” Neither of those rings true any more: Toronto’s diversity is becoming balkanized, turning it into a weakness where it could otherwise act to the city’s advantage. The creation of economically polarized pockets of high- and low-income residents means Toronto simply won’t “work” as a municipal entity.

“We used to brag about it,” Prof. Hulchanski said. “ ‘Toronto’s an efficient city – it works.’ We know now that’s not true.

“To have so much poverty in one geography and for it to be so deep and for the social distance to be so large … that isn’t healthy.”

In a five-year period alone, average incomes declined in 34 of the city’s census tracts (about 7 per cent of its total) – 23 of those areas became predominantly low-income. At the same time, 12 areas became high-income and nine earned “middle-income” status.


This has to do with the exclusion of immigrants from the labour force. As the Toronto City website boasts, Toronto's population is quite cosmopolitan, absolutely and relative to other Canadian cities. A variety of sources suggest that new Canadians just aren't fitting into the labour market, as evidenced by current unemployment rates.

While jobless rates dropped both nationally and locally – to 7.6 per cent Canada-wide, the lowest level in two years, and to 6.7 per cent from 9.2 per cent earlier this year in Toronto – unemployment is ramping up for people who have come to Canada in the past five years.

In Toronto, 19.7 per cent of recent immigrants are unemployed. That’s far higher than the 13 per cent who were jobless just a year ago, and nearly three times the jobless rate for Canadian-born residents.

It’s not unusual for immigrants to be hit harder by recession and to take longer to recover their job prospects. But Toronto relies more on immigrant labour now than it has in the past: As of 2011, virtually all of the city’s job-market growth depends on immigrants.

“Because of the fact that more than 50 per cent of our residents are foreign-born, there’s a sharper thrust and a higher stress for us to do really well,” said Ratna Omidvar, president of the Maytree Foundation.

What’s perennially missing in a city with a plethora of disconnected services and growing socioeconomic stratification, advocates argue, are the tools to connect immigrants to jobs. To this end, the federal government has pledged $2.3-million in funds to help Torontonian immigrants integrate – cash that has gone to programs started in May of this year.

And a new initiative through Scotiabank is teaming up with the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council to try to link immigrant professionals with their Canadian counterparts.

Immigrants who’ve arrived in Canada since the financial crisis face a growing Catch-22 of employment barriers, says TRIEC executive director Elizabeth McIsaac. They are at a disadvantage from the start, and the longer their lack of Canadian experience bars them from the job market, the harder it is to join and the longer their unemployment is a drag on the rest of the economy.

“If you landed in the middle of a recession and you didn’t get your first opportunity, your time out of the market exacerbates the challenges you had getting into it.… It begins to have a multiplying effect – a real scarring effect on immigrants.”'


The gap between immigrant and native-born worker incomes is taking an extra generation to close, a combination of competition from guest workers and the semi-legal labour market, a lack of Canadian-recognized credentials, and--quite possibly--the continued exclusion of new Canadians from the closed social networks of established employers and professional groups which let people join the labour market at a level befitting of their skills.

So. Ontario--including Toronto--may be doing better than in Québec in integrating immigrants into the mainstream labour market, and it's certainly doing a better job of avoiding creating a metic class than countries with less porous immigration regimes like Germany. Even with a national economy that has been performing quite strongly relative to most of its First World peers, this still isn't good enough to avoid creating a very problematic social and geographic pattern of relative deprivation linked to ethnic and national origins in Ontario's, and Canada's, largest city. This can lead in very negative directions. On ethical grounds alone, this is unacceptable.

Any suggestions as to how Toronto--and other cities--could pull out of this? Getting a sufficiently dynamic labour market, and associated economy, is key. Is there best practice to be productively shared?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

On Canada's ridiculous census conflict

Statistics Canada is heir to a long tradition, established under the French regime and continued under the British and independence, of government-conducted censuses. Canada's first census occurred in 1666, by order by New France's Intendant Jean Talon. "The census counted the colony's 3,215 inhabitants and recorded their age, sex, marital status and occupation. In light of the need for information to help plan and develop the Colony of New France, Talon did much of the data collection personally, visiting settlers throughout the colony." The census hasn't been publicly very controversial at all, with the privacy issues often raised generally not being raised. That's why it's so surprising that the Conservative federal government felt it had to abolish the mandatory long-form census.

The potential consequences are severe, inasmuch as the sectors of the population less likely to turn in the long-form census (immigrants, the poor, et cetera) are already likely to be undercounted.

Transit: Municipal governments look at detailed census data before deciding whether to make changes to transit routes or increase service. Less reliable data would mean more headaches for planners and — potentially — transit users.

Education: School boards use detailed census data to predict future enrolment, which affects their plans for staffing, the need for new schools and special programs such as minority-language training.

Social services: Without detailed census data, it may be more difficult to determine local needs for daycare, subsidized housing and services for disabled people.

Help for the unemployed: The details in the census data make it easier for governments to determine which parts of the country may need more help in dealing with unemployment and job retraining.


Québec, with its Institut de la statistique, is the only province capable of replicating the fine detail provided by Statistics Canada's long-form census.

The list of groups opposed to the change comprises virtually every sector in Canadian public line. Religious groups (Jews, evangelical Christians, "mainline" Christians, doubtless et cetera), cities in fast-growing Alberta, First Nations groups already unhappy with Statistics Canada's perceived issues, my hometown of Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, the city of Toronto, practically everyone in Québec, the government of Nunavut, obviously the opposition Liberal Party and New Democratic Party along with the Bloc Québécois ...

Practically the only people or organizations, besides the government, supporting the scrapping of the mandatory long-form census are groups like the libertarian Fraser Institute, which said that groups which made use of the mandatory long-form census were free-riding on government and that it's time that this stopped.

I'm unconvinced that this is anything but a political move. Already, the government backed down and added language-related questions to the mandatory short-form census in order to limit the damage among Francophones; many Francophone minority organizations were strongly opposed to the change, some going as far as preparing to launch a court battle. Does the suggestion that the government is trying to preserve privacy make sense given how its planning to pass mandatory boaters' registration, say, never mind the cornucopia of information available to the Canadian government thanks to the Canadian habit of funding public services with income tax (among other taxes). Oh, and there's been talk about the Canadian government following a Scandinavian model and not conduct a detailed census, rather collating data from different government agencies (never mind Canada's particular privacy laws).

It should be obvious that I favour the retention--restoration, now, sadly--of the mandatory long-form census. (I filled it in last time and didn't feel intruded upon, for whatever that's worth.) The arguments of groups like the Fraser Institute and political parties like the one currently forming the federal government that the mandatory long-form census is intrusive is, besides representing a complaint that really and truly hasn't been voiced before, overlooks the fact that detailed statistics are necessary if a government is to manage a complex society, and if society itself--including, say, blogs and bloggers like this one and me--is to understand itself. For shame.

Friday, June 11, 2010

On international migration and Québec

Le Devoir, arguably Québec's leading newspaper of record, yesterday uploaded an article by Benoît Dubreuil, ("Impact de l'immigration - Dépasser la pensée magique", "The Impact of Immigration: Getting Past Magical Thinking") that deconstructed some of the myths behind immigration in Québec.

Immigration is a particularly controversial issue in Québec compared to the rest of Canada because of the intersection of language with immigration. Traditionally, for a variety of reasons including the homogeneity of the Francophone community and the superior economic weight of the English language, most immigrants to Québec assimilated into the Anglophone community. As the birth rate among francophones dropped while the levels of immigration remained high, the post-Second World War generation of Francophones feared that French might become a minority language, especially in Montréal. As a consequence, Québec's post-1960 reforms saw immigration- and language-related issues placed under the control of its provincial government, with the Canada-Quebec Accord giving Québec basically its own immigration policy and the erection of a whole complex system of educational and workplace policies aimed at recruiting immigrants particularly likely to assimilate to the Francophone community.

In its overall demographic profile, with its combination of an advanced economy and a relatively small population, Québec isn't wildly different from Sweden. (Wikipedia provides good overviews of Québec's issues in English and French, with a rapidly aging population and ongoing population decline in its peripheries.) Unlike Sweden, where (as I blogged last September) the lack of an obvious cultural hinterland makes finding immigrants difficult, Québec's wealth and use of the widespread French language lets it attract large numbers of immigrants: from Francophone Europe; from Francophone countries and territories, formerly Belgian or French, in Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean (1% of Québec's population is of Haitian origin); and, from "Francotrope" countries, countries where the French language is widely spoken (Romania, Portugal) or countries where other Romance languages are spoken (Colombia, Brazil). Consequently, the list of the top sources of immigrants to Québec looks quite different from the list of the top sources of immigrants to Canada as a whole: consistently, China is the top source of immigrants but is very closely followed by France, followed by Morocco, Algeria, Romania, Haiti, and Lebanon, with Colombia along with Mexico and the Philippines also standing out. To the extent that Québec's government has been trying to use immigration to promote the use of the French language, anecdotal reports seem to suggest that it's working, with growing fluency in French (thanks in no small measure to mandatory French-medium education) and the gradual creation of what's basically a multicultural Francophone community. Thus one potential source of ethnic conflict was--painfully, slowly--dealt with.

Québec has had a fairly open immigration policy for the past decades. Although Québec's share of Canada's immigrant intake is well below its weight in the Canadian population, in absolute numbers, relative to the size of Québec's population, and relative to immigrant inflows in polities of comparable size, it's still signfiicant. This is often presented as a positive thing, as a phenomenon that rejuvenates aging populations and provides plenty of new workers and consumers. Dubreuil superbly points out the myths relating to immigration, and the new problems associated with it. Let me quote five paragraphs, translated thanks to Google Translate with a little help from me.

Landed immigrants in Québec are, on their arrival, younger (27 years) than the Québec average (40 years). One might think that more immigrants could significantly rejuvenate the population of Québec. Ten thousand more immigrants in a year, for example, reduces the average age of Quebec that year by 0.02 years. In a recent article in the Cahiers québécois de démographie, demographer William Marois has calculated that it would take 200,000 immigrants per year, four times more than now, to prevent the population of age 65 and over from exceeding 25% of the total population during the twenty-first century.

The low impact of immigration is explained by the amounts at stake: the 45,000 immigrants received each year is equivalent to about 0.6% of the population of Quebec. This is clearly insufficient to reverse the trends at work in 99.4% of the population. This does not mean that immigration has no impact on demography. On the contrary, it has a significant impact on the total size of the population. More people, however, does not allow itself to face the problem of aging. The latter is related to the age structure of the population, in turn only slightly affected by more immigrants.

Another misconception is that immigration helps to rejuvenate the population through higher fertility of immigrant women. While the fertility of immigrant women is slightly higher than that of native women, this gap is not likely to reverse demographic trends nationally. The demographer Ayéko Tossou assessed the fertility of immigrant women in Quebec had varied between 2.2 and 2.8 children per woman between 1976 and 1996. The difference with the fertility rate of native women is real, but immigrant women increase the fertility rate of Québec by only 0.1.

In recent years, the government insisted on the tremendous opportunities created on the labour market by the aging population. According to Emploi-Quebec, nearly 700,000 jobs to be filled in the coming years. These evaluations are frequently used to justify our policies and recruiting candidates for immigration. But immigration can really meet the needs of Quebec labor? This is doubtful.

First, it should be noted that immigration does not increase the supply of labor, it also increases demand. Immigrants are not only workers but also consumers. If, for example, immigration increases the population of Quebec by 10% in fifteen or twenty years, it may also increase the manpower needs by more or less 10% in business, health care, et cetera. The reasoning here is similar to that outlined in the case of demography. If immigration increases the total size of the labour market, its impact on the labor market structure is necessarily weak, because the number of landed immigrants is simply too low to reverse the trends in the rest of the population.


Dubreuil notes that for the past generation, the incomes of immigrant workers have declined sharply relative to their native-born counterparts in Québec as in Canada: "From 1980 to 2005, for example, the average income of recent immigrants with university degrees increased from $48,541 to $30,332. It is important to note that this decline occurred despite a higher employment rate among recent immigrants than before." In fact, there's reason to suspect that this problem may be worse in Québec than in Ontario, for whatever reason.

Immigration--like migration generally--obviously plays a role in economic development, and can easily play a positive role. It's just very, very important to keep track of the details. What's working? What isn't? What can be changed? What can't be changed? What, finally, is to be done?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

On the lumpiness of nations and migrations and the importance of details

Over at the Middle East/North Africa-focused blog 'Aqoul, Matthew Hogan has an interesting post ("Class Demographics Explain Better MENA/Muslim Integration in USA?") that makes the point that comparisons between the levels of integration enjoyed or not enjoyed by Muslims in the United States and Europe are owing at least as much to the characteristics of the migrants as to the policies and attitudes of the receiving countries.

While I do enjoy a nice dose of American exceptionalism, and I do think it may apply here in some ways, let me nevertheless throw out a less nationalistic hypothesis on relative integration levels. I am too lazy and busy to find and crunch the appropriate numbers and surveys to confirm or refute it, but here it is: Could some of the relatively better Muslim/MENA integration in America be simply due to the fact that Muslim immigrants there have tended towards the educated professional and middle class, rather than being a large class of laborers as may be the case in lots of Europe?

Immigration-engendered social stress induced by large numbers of peasants coming up from the south is in the USA an issue associated with Mexican, and not Muslim and/or MENA, immigration. (There is no religious identity or practice fault-line, however, related to USA Mexican migration because Mexicans are typically Christians. The historic Catholic-Protestant divides of yesteryear's America and Greater Anglo-Saxonia have long since faded into insignificance.)

But on the issue of Mexican immigration, there is alot of overlap with European-type fears of Muslim/MENA immigration - namely the deeper fears engendered by the preceived phenomenon of lots-and-lots-of-brown-people-who-look-talk-and-act-funny-and-are-sucking-down-our-welfare-and-still-speaking-their-language-and-not doing-stuff-our-way.

But that type of fear may be less active where immigrants are more educated or entrepreneurial, thereby speaking the language well and living in (and selling to) mainstream communities. They also interact more frequently with different groups in the workplace. Such relative interaction seems to be the case of Muslim immigrants to the USA, many of whom came here to get an education and a profession, or start wholesale or retail-oriented businesses. They don’t manifest the isolation levels of MENA/Muslim immigrants in Europe, or Mexicans in North America for that matter.


Is this at all surprising?

National populations don't exhibit uniform demographic behaviours, with these instead varying according to such factors as ethnicity, region, class, or religion--East Germany within Germany is a perfect example of this. Migration is a notoriously "lumpy" phenomenon, depending critically on all manner of formal and informal links between sending and receiving areas, links which don't exist in the same way for different populations. One-third of the Mexican-born population in the United States was born in three west-central Mexican states (Jalisco, Guanajuato, Michoacán) where only 15% of the Mexican population lives. A wildly disproportionate share of Japan's emigrants have come from the Ryukyu Islands, centered on Okinawa, virtually an independent state until the late 19th century. A disproportionate number of the Atlantic Canadian province of New Brunswick's Francophones (and perhaps Francophones elsewhere in Atlantic Canada) move to Québec. And yes, a disproportionate number of the immigrants to the United States from Muslim countries were professionals, while European countries which received immigrants explicitly recruited immigrants for unskilled labour.

When you're talking about population trends, it's very important to take note of the details. Without the details, any conclusions one might hope to reach will necessarily be flawed.

Friday, April 16, 2010

A few Friday links

Today's my day for links-writing, I suppose, but in my defense I've got quite a lot of good ones!


  • Continuing yesterday's United Arab Emirates theme, rising immigration and the advance of the demographic transition among Emiratis is projected to diminish the Emirati share of the UAE's population from 20 to 15% over the next two decades.

  • Immigration and high birth rates mean that Sweden's population is projected to reach 10 million in 2021.

  • Birth rates in Wales are rising, straining existing maternity and childcare services.

  • Birth rates in the United States fell by 2% in 2008, perhaps because of the economic crash.

  • Immigration has helped boost South Korea's population by a half-million, significantly more than projections had indicated.

  • Despite a very low birthrate, and ongoing depopulation in its northern regions, Romania's population is projected to be fairly young by European standards in 2030.

  • Some 13% of Maliens have emigrated from their country, most living in neighbouring nations like Côte d'Ivoire but with substantial contingents in Europe, especially France.

  • In French, the Canadian Press notes that Québec's birth rate has reached new highs, with nearly 89 thousand births this year, although the fertility rate has remained stable, with the population expected to reach some 9 million.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

More on Canadian regional demographics

Following up on my post last month about rising Canadian period fertility, the CBC reported recently that western Canada, led by Alberta, has seen the highest rate of population growth.

Alberta was the fastest growing province with a growth of 0.59 per cent — or about 20,000 new residents — in the quarter, but its growth was slower than the previous year, when it had a growth of 0.80 per cent.

Statistics Canada said growth in Alberta slowed because the number of residents from other provinces moving to Alberta declined, though Alberta still led the provinces in interprovincial migration gain with 4,700 net additions.

Manitoba, Saskatchewan and British Columbia also recorded higher than usual population growth.

Prince Edward Island had the highest demographic growth among Eastern provinces, with a 0.53 per cent increase in the quarter, mostly attributable to international immigration. Nunavut had the highest growth among the territories, with an increase of 0.68 per cent.

The remaining provinces and territories had growth rates less than the national average. Ontario's population grew by 0.34 per cent in the quarter, the seventh quarter in a row that its demographic growth has been below the national average.


Saskatchewan, interestingly, has recently experienced relatively rapid population growth driven substantially by migration in contradiction to past trends.

All this represents a continuation of the trends described by Patrick White recently in The Globe and Mail.

While their populations increased over all, Ontario and Quebec combined to shed nearly 7,500 residents to interprovincial migration between April and June of this year. For Ontario, it was the largest second-quarter migration loss since 1990.

Most headed for the Prairies. Saskatchewan recorded its biggest year-over-year population increase in five decades between July, 2008, and July, 2009, adding more than 16,500 new residents. The influx pushed the province's population beyond the one-million mark for the first time in 22 years.

“In Saskatchewan, we've been a net loser in the interprovincial sweepstakes for some time,” said Rosemary Venne, a demographer and associate professor at the University of Saskatchewan's Edwards School of Business. “Many of the people coming now are returnees.”

Alberta was the biggest beneficiary of the movement away from Central Canada, picking up more than 4,700 internal migrants and 8,600 immigrants during the quarter. But overall population growth in the province cooled considerably – from 0.78 to 0.59 per cent – compared to the same period last year.

Manitoba and British Columbia also grew at higher-than-normal rates.

“That's a continuation of the westward drift we've been seeing for some time,” Dr. Venne said.

Over all, Canada's population inched up 0.36 per cent in the quarter, reaching 33,739,859, due largely to the addition of about 84,800 immigrants, the second-highest figure for the quarter since 1972.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Who'll pay for IVF in Ontario (and elsewhere)?

Recently, an interesting proposal was made regarding a new service to be covered by OHIP, Ontario's public health insurance plan.

The Ontario government should provide funding for up to three cycles of in vitro fertilization for women under the age of 42, according to a report released Wednesday.

An expert panel on infertility and adoption, appointed by Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty last summer, is also recommending replacing a "patchwork" of adoption services with a centralized adoption agency.

One in six couples will struggle with infertility and the greatest barrier to assisted reproduction services is the cost, with one cycle of IVF costing about $10,000, according to the panel.

The group said the high cost of fertility treatments is leading to decisions which result in an unacceptably high rate of multiple births in Ontario.

To increase chances of success, women and couples choose to have more than one embryo transferred, say the authors of the report. As a result, the rate of multiple births from assisted reproduction was 27.5 per cent in 2006, compared to rates below 10 per cent in other jurisdictions with controls on the number of embryos transferred, they say.


This plan is relatively controversial, given Ontario's own budgetary problems and concerns over strains on the healthcare system.

[The report] points to other jurisdictions that have used public funding as a mechanism to reduce multi-births and argues this saves money down the road by avoiding medical complications from twins and triplets.

But counting on those (imputed) savings requires a leap of faith. It may not fully account for the possibility that many other couples would line up for IVF at public expense – crowding out a strained health budget. In any case, if multiple implantations are medically unsound, they ought to be banned on medical grounds; it's not clear that the province should use its chequebook to discourage what it could otherwise accomplish through regulation and standards of practice.

Welcoming the report, Premier Dalton McGuinty expressed sympathy for families but warned that Ontario faces difficult economic times. That is a good place to start an informed public debate.


The question of government funding for fertility treatments has been a notable issue, triggering lawsuits against the provincial government.

In Quebec, high-profile TV personality Julie Snyder, the wife of Quebecor CEO Pierre-Karl Péladeau, urged the province to cover IVF treatments. She made a documentary about infertility and put pressure on politicians.

In April, Premier Jean Charest's government announced that it will fund three IVF cycles for couples, making Quebec the only province to do so.

Seang Lin Tan, a fertility expert at the McGill University Health Centre in Montreal, said one in eight Canadian couples struggles with infertility.

"What's frustrating, is that people who would be good candidates are routinely told they have to dig into their pockets," Prof. Attaran said. "I'm fortunate, law professors get paid decently. But that's not true for everyone."

After a year of trying to conceive, the couple paid $6,300 for one IVF treatment at an Ottawa fertility clinic. A further $6,500 in drugs was covered by private insurance.

A spokesperson for Ontario Health Minister David Caplan said he would not comment on the case.

OHIP paid for IVF in the past, but in a cost-cutting measure in 1994, Ontario withdrew funding except for women whose fallopian tubes are blocked. That applies to about 25 per cent of infertile patients, said Jeff Nisker, a professor of obstetrics, gynecology and oncology at the University of Western Ontario.


Just to the northeast, it should be noted that Québec has adopted a policy of subsidizing fertility treatments, first offering a refundable tax credit paying for 50% of the costs of the treatment up to a maximum of $C 10 000 and now preparing to fund the first three cycles of in vitro fertility treatments. This, it should be noted, is part of a historic policy on Québec's part of heavily subsidizing parents and their children.

Since 1997, the province has implemented a panoply of measures to support women who want to be good mothers without sacrificing their careers.

They include generous parental leave, affordable child care, tax incentives for child-bearing, and employment premiums for working parents.

They appear to have worked: Twelve years ago, the province's fertility rate stood at 1.51 children per woman. Today it stands at a 30-year high of 1.72 children per woman, significantly higher than the Canadian average of 1.58.

Premier Jean Charest calls his province "a paradise for families." He boasts that Quebec has succeeded in slowing its population decline, reducing child poverty and increasing the employment rate among women.

His government plans to go further, offering public funding to infertile couples who want in vitro fertilization.

Quebec's programs are expensive. The province will spend $6.5 billion to support families this year (45 per cent more than Ontario).

But its fertility rate is on par with those of the Scandinavian countries, the Netherlands and Britain.

Critics call Quebec's approach costly social engineering. But the majority of citizens support their government's family policies because they make life easier for parents and safeguard the province's francophone identify.

No other government in the country is following Quebec's example.


In covering this issue, many journalists have noted that in addition to Québec, countries like Belgium, Sweden, Australia, and Israel all pay the costs of at least several cycles of in vitro fertilization. I wonder if the number of countries providing fertility treatments will grow, perhaps driven by concerns over population issues as they effect national populations and national power. Certainly Australia and Israel have histories of wanting to boost their populations, motivated by concerns for these nation's continued survival.

At any rate, the question of assisted reproductive technologies and how they'll be used in different societies is sure to be a major issue, not least because of the continued increase in the age of women at their first child. The women might be blamed for their acting in non-traditional roles, and stigma surrounding male infertility will continue to some degree, but these technologies will continue to be used. In countries with any kind of health insurance program, the emotive question of whether or not aspiring parents will be supported in their desire to have children will continue to be asked.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

How Québec and Alberta are (so far) avoiding lowest-low fertility

Globe and Mail columnist Doug Saunders recently drew my attention, and that of others to an interesting new study on fertility patterns in his article "Making more babies: a stimulus plan." Saunders explains for the curious the import of population increase generally and replacement-level fertility specifically.

Here is where you start to understand the obsession with birth rates: The catastrophic credit-crunch recession is making those rates fall at precisely the moment when the economy badly needs them to rise.

Germany announced this week that economic growth has resumed for the first time in a year. It accomplished this by dumping huge sums of government money into the economy, at great cost: Its government debt is now equivalent to around 70 per cent of its entire economy, and it is about to borrow another 350 billion euros.

Such debt levels are a temporary worry provided that long-term growth returns. Public-debt levels were higher after the Second World War, after all, and spending didn't have to come down: The economy simply outgrew the debt, as did government revenues, until it became negligible.

But that recovery was accompanied by a baby boom, bringing new young taxpayers and revenue-generators into the economy. A declining population, on the other hand, is by definition an aging one, and the pension, health and other public costs of an old population, combined with the lost tax revenue of a big non-working population, are enough to kill the economy.


Canada is--much as we might deny it--basically a multinational polity with component provinces jealously guarding their autonomy, some like Québec in particular maintaining policies quite different from those of the Canadian average, allowing for some degree of variation. Saunders points to a recent study, Roderic Beaujot and Juyan Wang's "Low fertility lite: The Nordic model in Quebec and the U.S. Model in Alberta", that might explain why TFRs have been sharply rising in those two provinces.

Canadian fertility has increased over the last four years, from 1.51 in 2002 to 1.59 in 2006. The increases have been highest in Quebec and Alberta. In Quebec, the increase has been occurring over the period 2000 to 2007, from a total fertility rate of 1.45 to 1.65 (Institut de la statistique du Québec, 2008: 28). In Alberta, the increase is from 1.64 in 2000 to 1.82 in 2006.

While many considerations are at stake in low fertility, it would appear that questions of economic risks and policy support are key matters (McDonald, 2006; Gauthier and Philipov, 2008). Roy and Bernier (2006) had argued that the Quebec family and policy trends were coming to resemble the Nordic model, with a high proportion of births in cohabiting unions, and considerable state support, especially through the Ministère de la Famille, des Aînés et de la Condition féminine.

But other countries, and the United States in particular, have managed higher fertility through a model that involves low state support. The strong job growth experienced in the United States since the recession of the early 1990s meant that, even with poor job protection, withdrawals from the labour force were less risky; people could be confident of their employment prospects when they desired to return to the labour market. In Canada, the most recent period has seen Alberta emerge as the province of strong job growth, to the point that in some years it was the only province with a substantial positive net internal migration. Commenting on the labour force data for 2006,
The Globe and Mail used the headline: “Women in the East join work force, women in West leave in droves” (Scoffield, 2006). Exaggerated as the headline was, it may have touched a reality in terms of alternative opportunities and preferences during this period of resource-sector growth in Alberta (2-3)

The general shift towards delayed fertility has helped boost cohort fertility. "[C]onsequently, completed fertility as of age 50, which had declined to 1.61 for the 1954-58 cohorts in Quebec, is estimated to rise to 1.72 for the 1972-73 cohort. For Canada as a whole, cohort fertility declined from 3.4 in the birth cohorts of the late 1920s, to 1.8 in the cohorts of the early 1950s, but it has been estimated in the stable range of 1.74 to 1.76 for cohorts from the mid 1960s to the late 1970s (Statistics Canada, 2008: 33)."

But the shift upwards has been most pronounced in Alberta and Québec. What's responsible for this? Saunders summarizes their conclusions.

They identified two baby-friendly systems. There's the “American” model, in which, thanks to high employment, “even with poor job protection, withdrawals from the labour force were less risky; people could be confident of their employment prospects when they desired to return to the labour market.”

On the other hand, in the “Nordic” model, even with poor employment levels, combining family and work was possible because of strong child-care, family-support and maternity-leave programs. (Canada, like Germany, lacks both high employment and generous child care, so doesn't really fit into either model.)

“In that context,” they conclude, “it is noteworthy that fertility is rising most in Alberta and Quebec, that is in provinces where young families have had the security of either good job opportunities or supportive social policy.”


It may also be worth noting that Canada as a whole has low total and completed fertility. Here in Ontario, for instance, child care spaces are hard to come by and things aren't getting better, while Ontario's unemployment rate continues to rise as the automotive manufacturing sector continues its slow-motion implosion and takes the rest of the industrial economy with it. (Québec, as an article I linked to a while back noted, had a much more diversified and stable economy going in and, for the first time in a while, has lower rates of unemployment than Ontario.)

If these trends continue, I wonder how the balance between provinces might evolve. Ontario has traditionally been the dominant player in Confederation, but if its economy continues to perform below-par while demographic trends turn against it, even as Québec remains stable and Alberta continues to grow, interesting things could happen. Canadian political analyst James Laxer has suggested that the Québec-Alberta alliance that brought Canada into North America free trade alliances in the 1980s might be revived, perhaps to further decentralize the country. (Will we one day speak not of "Canada" but rather of "the Canadas"?)

While we're waiting for the very fabric of Canada to be rewoven beyond all recognition, in the meantime Beaujot and Wang's study makes a valuable contribution to the study of demographic differences between societies. Insecurity and uncertainty of whatever kind never helps.

Thoughts?

Thursday, July 02, 2009

On rural Canada's evolution

Today on Canada Day, Canada's national holiday, the CTV television network's Andrea Janus produced an article with an overly lurid title, "Will immigration, aging kill Small Town, Canada?". In the past couple of decades, the make-up of the Canadian population has changed very considerably.

Canada has long been celebrated as a multi-cultural society, but the makeup of the Canadian mosaic, now 33 million people strong, has changed over the years.

Two decades ago, the average Canadian was in his or her late twenties, less likely to be in a relationship with someone of a different ethnic origin and new immigrants were more likely to be of European background.

Today, the average Canadian is 39 years old, more likely to be married to someone of a different ethnicity and new immigrants are more likely to be from Asia or the Middle East.

"What we're seeing in Canada is the changing face of Canadians in that more and more of the Canadian population is coming from places in Africa, Latin America and Asia," said Mark Rosenberg, a professor of geography and community health and epidemiology at Queens University in Ontario.

"And so the diversity of the Canadian population has changed significantly over the last 20 years," he told CTV.ca.


Aging is a very notable phenomenon, stemmed only by heavy immigration relatively to other developed societies with medium-to-low fertility.

On July 1, 2007, the median age of Canadians was 39 years. In 1971, it was 26 years.

Canada's aging population is largely a result of our relatively low birth rate -- in 2004, it fell to 10.5 live births for every 1,000 population, the lowest since such statistics began to be compiled in 1921.

Indeed, because two-thirds of Canada's population growth comes from immigration and not new births, Canada is not far behind Japan, considered the world's "oldest" country with a median age of 41.

By contrast, 60 per cent of the population growth in the United States comes from a higher birth rate. The average age there is 36.6.


These two factors--the aging of the Canadian population, and the dependence on immigration for population growth--combine with the concentration of immigration to large cities to produce a serious problem for rural Canada.

If Canada's population growth is largely attributable to immigration, and the majority of immigrants settle in and around Canada's largest cities (Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver), are the days of small towns numbered?

More than four out of five Canadians live in an urban area, according to the 2006 census, and those areas grew more rapidly than rural areas between 2001 and 2006.

And while 35.7 per cent of urban residents in Canada were between the ages of 20 and 44, only 27.7 per cent were between those ages in Canada's rural areas.

But Rosenberg said it is unlikely that, even though young adults leave small towns in large numbers to pursue higher education and job opportunities, Canada's rural villages will disappear completely.

"It's not about the disappearances of Small Town, Canada," Rosenberg said. "But it is about the disappearance of some communities, particularly some of the smallest communities in rural and northern places, that will slowly see their populations disappear."


What's going on with rural Canada?

Since censuses began in Canada, there has been an inexorable urbanization of the Canadian population: in 1851, 13% of Canada's 2.4 million inhabitants were urbanites; in 1951, 62% of Canada's 14 million; and in 2001, 80% of Canada's 30 million. While there are questions about the proper definition of urban areas, the general direction of the trend is clear.

Rural society in both both both English Canada and in Québec has been marked by this urbanization, the traditional social and economic bases of rural society have come under attack by the modernization of agriculture, as traditional rural cultures become influenced by urban norms, and quite importantly, as young people leave for the cities. This article in Le Devoir notes the importance of this last feature.

Dans ces milieux, le départ des jeunes contribue à accélérer le processus de vieillissement démographique et, par conséquent, à accroître le rythme du dépeuplement. À cet égard, nous avons d'ailleurs observé l'existence d'une relation causale entre l'instabilité démographique et l'accroissement du nombre de personnes âgées au sein des espaces à faible densité humaine.

In these areas, the flight of the young contributes to the acceleration of population aging, and as a consequence, to accelerate depopulation. In this regard, we have elsewhere observed the existence of a causal relationship between demographic instability and the growth of the nomber of the elderly in areas with low population densities.


It's worth noting that rural populations have continued to grow--throughout the 1990s, they did experience absolute growth. It's just that population growth in rural areas has been relatively slower than in urban areas, with rural areas outside of small towns experiencing particularly slow or even negative growth. What has been going on most recently, in the 2001-2006 period?

"According to the statistics, the Northwest Territories had the greatest increase in its rural population at 11.1 per cent. It was followed by Quebec with 5.3 per cent, Manitoba at 4.2 per cent, Alberta at 3.7 per cent, Ontario and Yukon at 3.5 per cent, Nova Scotia at 1.4 per cent and B.C. and P.E.I. both at less that one per cent. Nunavut had the largest decline at 7.6 per cent.

On average, Canada's rural population grew by 2.7 per cent."

Saskatchewan's rural population shrunk by 3%.

Some rural areas are more dynamic than others--rural areas in southern and western Québec are faring substantially better than those in northern and eastern Québec, for example, and the rapid depopulation of rural Newfoundland has few if any parallels elsewhere in Canada. Still, with relatively fewer economic advantages, relatively worse health statistics, and relatively lower education levels, rural areas in Canada are going to face significant challenges.

What's the role of immigration in rural Canada? Quite limited, actually. In 1996, immigrants made up 27% of the population of urban areas versus 6% of the population of rural areas, while immigrants who arrived between 1981 and 1996 made up 2% of the population of rural areas and 13% of the population of urban areas. In all, in 2001 88% of Canada's immigrant population lived in cities. Pre-1981 immigrants enjoyed relatively higher living standards than their post-1981 immigrants, with members of visible minorities doing particularly badly.

There was very recently an affecting Ingrid Peretz article in The Glboe and Mail which chronicled the difficulty of one young and eligible Québec farmer in finding a long-term partner: women, it seemed, weren't interested in a life on the farm. This anecdote indicates the general direction of population trends in rural Canada, but not their inevitable destination. Populations in rural areas are not destined to disappear, although shrinkage is inevitable out of all but a few favoured areas. What is going to happen is the continued relative decline of rural populations and the continued cultural urbanization of rural populations, as relatively lower standards of living ensure that the Canadian-born will continue to move to the cities and immigrants will stay away.

I'm tempted to say that the Canadian experience reflects the experience of most other middle- and high-income countries. With rural economies increasingly mechanized and relatively higher living standards in urban areas, how can this fate not be avoided?