The NWT’s 2016 Demographics: Meager Growth, Lots of Babies

The headline news from Statistics Canada’s 2016 demographics report is all about the huge national spike in immigration — the largest “in a single annual period since the early 1910s during the settlement of Western Canada.” But the report also contains insights about the North and its changing population.

Population Growth Rates, 2014/15, 2015/2016 (Charts provided by Statistics Canada)

Up here, our population grew at a rate well below the national average of +1.2 percent  — the NWT’s growth was a meager +0.5 percent. Territorially speaking, we squeaked past the Yukon, (+0.3 percent). “Only Nunavut (+1.5%) posted an increase in its population growth compared with 2014/2015 (+1.4%).” Nunavut is undergoing a population boom — if it continues, it’s on track to become the most populous territory, overtaking the Yukon.

Proportion of the population aged 0-14 and 65 years and over, 2016

It’s where that growth came from that’s of interest/concern. “In the territories, especially because of higher fertility levels, natural increase was a more substantial source of population growth.” That is to say, most of the growth is from births. “Natural increase in the Northwest Territories (+1.0%) and Nunavut (+1.9%)—the highest in Canada—represented most of these territories’ population growth. In Yukon, however, the rate of international migratory increase (+0.9%) exceeded the rate of natural increase (+0.6%).”


So no one is coming here, really, or at least not in any significant way, and even our modest population growth is being powered by infants — adorable, certainly, but not exactly productive members of society. Add this to the general aging spike, and you see a rise in the dependent demographic ratio — the number of children (0 to 14 years) and seniors (65 years and older) per 100 working-age persons (15 to 64 years). 

Nationally, the report says, “On July 1, 2016, the ratio was 48.3. This indicator has been rising steadily since 2007 (43.9), and more strikingly since 2011 when the first baby boom cohorts began to turn 65. It will continue to rise until 2030, when the last baby boomers will turn 65…. the demographic dependency ratio should be 63.7 in 2030.”

Sex ratio by age group, 2016

Another finding: In 2016, males outnumbered females in all the territories, especially as ages increase. At 50 and older, the NWT had 107.9 males per 100 females. The Yukon has 108.2 males per 100 women, while Nunavut had 116.1.


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