The baby boom began with the births of children who had been postponed during the Depression, but two other factors affected the birthrate as well. First, a larger proportion of adults married, and those who did had more children. Married and single women born between 1911 and 1912 had an average of 2.9 children, whereas those born between 1929 and 1933 had an average of 3.3. This is called "completed fertility." These two generations are separated by 20 years and, between the older and the younger, the number of children per woman increased by 13%.
Second, more than 50% of baby-boom births can be attributed to what demographers call "timing phenomena." More adults married at a younger age (the median age for a woman's first marriage was 23.2 years in 1940 and 21.1 years in 1965), and between the end of the Second World War and 1965, young couples tended to have their children during the first few years of married life.
Between 1940 and 1965 the annual number of births in Canada rose from 253 000 in 1940 to 479 000 in 1960, but dropped to 419 000 in 1965. Over a period of 25 years, the baby boom produced about 1.5 million more births than would otherwise have occurred (about 8.6 million), an increase of more than 18%. By 1965, however, people were marrying at a later age and were waiting longer to have children, partly because more women were entering the workforce and partly because there was general access to better methods of BIRTH CONTROL. (See WOMEN IN THE LABOUR FORCE.)
Canada's population is predicted to exceed 40 million people by 2036. In 2009, there were approximately 1.3 million people aged 80 or over and by 2036 this could increase to 3.3 million. The aging of the population is projected to accelerate rapidly as more of the baby-boom generation turns 65 and as that happens, the number of senior citizens could exceed the number of children for the first time in Canada's history.
There was a time when the baby boom was central to many explanations in social sciences. It is still important, but no longer behaves the way theory would expect it to behave. Baby boomers were born between 1946 and 1966. The baby boomers caused a swelling in the demographic curves, likened to a rabbit swallowed by a python snake and moving along the body of the snake. Within 20 years after 1966 the "rabbit" reached ages 20-39 (1966-86) and moved into the LABOUR FORCE. In 2011, the "rabbit" reached 65, the traditional retirement age. Over the next 20 years, that is until 2031, large additions to age groups in retirement could be experienced by society. (See AGING.) However, the changing economy, changing attitudes and expectations toward lifestyle, and longer life expectancy are redefining this generation's approach to age and retirement. As baby boomers retire, it will create the need for workers to fill the vacated jobs, many of which require specialized skill sets. This may create the need to retain older workers and delay their retirement, or to find workers from other countries.
As more of the baby-boom generation enter their 60s, the labour force comprising older workers will increase. In 2005, studies of Canada's labour force indicated that seniors with a university degree were four times more likely to participate in the labour force than seniors with eight years or less of formal schooling. Women of the baby-boom generation are also remaining in the workforce; in 2007, women made up 35% of senior workers.
By 2036, the senior population in Canada (65 years and over) is expected to more than double and is estimated to represent 23% to 25% of the total population compared to 14% in 2009.
According to the Easterlin theory, large population cohorts such as the baby boomers are economically disadvantaged; small populations are more advantaged. The "baby-bust" generation, or Generation X (1966 to 1974) corresponds to the drop in the birthrate after the baby boom. In consequence, the large groups have fewer children, hence the "baby bust" after 1966. Between 1972 and 1992, at least 60% of Canadian births were to mothers born during the baby boom, however baby boomers had fewer children than their parents. While Canada and several other developed countries behaved in accordance with this theory, Québec and Ontario provide scant support for it: the baby boom in Québec was smaller than in Ontario, yet the decline in fertility was greater. (See FERTILITY.)
The baby-bust generation, also known as Generation X, a term popularized by author Douglas COUPLAND, started entering the labour force in the late 1980s and should have experienced, according to the theory, economic advantages. Instead, high UNEMPLOYMENT and unfavourable INCOME DISTRIBUTION greeted Generation X. Thus, they would have no incentive to produce the next baby boom. Conceivably, the baby bust would have been even more severe except for the effect of the baby-boom echo (babies born due to the large number of mothers, not because the average mother had many children).
In 2011, the children of baby boomers (aged 19 to 39) comprised 27% of the total population; this cohort was referred to as Generation Y or the “echo of the baby boom.” The drop in the fertility rate of the generations that followed the baby boomers was influenced by societal changes including the increases in separation and divorce rates, female labour force participation and rapid technological change. The children of the echo generation named Generation Z, or the Internet generation, are individuals born since 1993 or, after the invention of the Internet, and refers to more than 7.3 million people born between 1993 and 2011.
The baby-bust additions to the labour force beginning with the late 1980s are small and result in a pronounced change in the proportions of the population producing the national income and consuming it. The number of pensioners or retirees could rise from 1 per 5 members of the labour force to 1 per 2. Some analysts have suggested a "war of generations" as a consequence. (See MARXISM and KEYNESIAN ECONOMICS.) Instead of the imperialist wars required by Marx to do away with capitalist surpluses or the deficit financing required by Keynes to increase effective demand, the surplus would be wiped out through the consumption of the aging baby boomers. In this fashion, the young baby busters would be employed, at least in accordance with the anticipated interplay of baby boom, baby-boom echo and baby bust. But the reluctance or inability of many boomers to leave the work force could alter that prediction.
Further to these fundamental shifts, there are other changes. The society comprising baby boomers that was once young is aging: the historical highs in median age experienced during the 1980s and 1990s (34 in 1994) will adjust to a median age of 40 in the year 2016. Even if there are no further declines in the fertility rate per woman, there will be declines in the total number of births to well below the annual 400 000 and increases above the annual 200 000 deaths until there are more deaths than births.
In 2006, there were more than 4.3 million Canadians over aged 65 which was a 12% increase since 2001 and the growth rate in the number of seniors was more than double the rate of overall population increase in the previous five years. The 2011 census reported that the group aged 60 to 64 experienced the fastest increase; as the baby boomer cohort ages, the growth of the senior population in Canada will accelerate. The baby boom generation is the most influential population shaping Canada's economy. An aging work workforce presents challenges for Canadian employers faced with a high rate of employee turnover, employee retention, health of older workers and continuous training of employees. As baby boomers become senior citizens, the pressure of economic and social demand has begun to switch from schools to the needs of the elderly and the costs associated with an aging population including health care and income security.
KAROL J. KROTKI
Author KAROL J. KROTKI, JACQUES HENRIPIN
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