According to Statistics Canada data released Wednesday, Saskatchewan has the highest proportion of young people among the provinces at 19.6 per cent. The national average is 16.6 per cent.
Ken Coates, Canada Research Chair in Regional Innovation at the Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy at the University of Saskatchewan, said information collected during the latest census shows the need for a much more concerted effort to provide proper services for the province’s indigenous, First Nations and Metis people.
Saskatchewan has a large indigenous population, and indigenous communities have the highest birthrates in Canada, Coates noted.
Meanwhile, the life expectancy of the aboriginal population is lower than the Canadian average, “so that basically tells you that too many aboriginal people die young and die younger than other people. That’s not good news,” he said.
A high indigenous birthrate could be positive, but a lack of child care, health and education services could perpetuate that population’s challenges, he added.
At the other end of the age spectrum, the number of Canadians who are 65 and older increased by 20 per cent since the 2011 census. That’s the largest such increase since Confederation and marks the first time the census counted more seniors (5.9 million) than children 14 years of age and younger (5.8 million).
Saskatchewan’s older population increased by just 10.9 per cent, which Coates attributes to seniors fleeing south and west to escape the winter climate. He said he expects more seniors to stay in the province as cities grow and develop more services, activities and amenities.
While the growing senior population is good news in that it means people are living longer, it throws off the ratio of people who are no longer working compared to those who produce the income that pays for government assistance and health care, he said.