Coronavirus is expected to affect fertility differently depending on regional income levels, according to an editorial in Science magazine. High-income countries, such as Canada, are expected to see fewer newborns as a result of the pandemic, thus an older population, and a smaller population size.
The Brookings Institution, a think-tank out of Washington, D.C., suggests that the U.S. could see anywhere from 300,000 to 500,000 fewer babies born as a result of the pandemic. Canada is not expected to see the same kind of hit, CBC reports, but any dip in population growth will have impacts on the labour market.
Before the pandemic, Canada was already seeing a decline in new births and an aging population. Canada’s 9 million baby boomers are expected to reach retirement age in just 10 years. The Conference Board of Canada says immigrants will account for 100 per cent of the national population growth by 2034. In the early months of 2020, immigration already accounted for 82 per cent of Canada’s population growth.
Without immigrants available to support the needs of an aging population, the care and financial responsibilities will be passed on to Canadians.
When young people have to provide enough income tax to support elderly Canadians, they end up paying more per person to provide the same benefits, economist Elisabeth Gugl told CBC.
Gugl said immigration is the only alternative to supporting the aging population, noting that immigration has declined in recent months.
Though Canada has issued a record number of Invitations to Apply (ITAs) for permanent residence through the Express Entry system this year, global measures to stop the spread of COVID-19 have hindered travel to Canada. Permanent resident visas fell 26 per cent in March, after Canada shut its borders for the latter half of the month onwards. In April, Canada only welcomed 4,000 immigrants. Numbers started to pick up in May when 11,000 new immigrants came to Canada. June data is expected to be available soon.
The federal and provincial governments will need to keep immigration as a priority in order to ensure long-term economic recovery. The Science article suggested that dips in fertility rates have followed previous periods of high mortality for about a year. Fertility tends to increase one to five years after the event. However, the study noted the unique nature of the coronavirus makes it difficult to compare with historical data.
The effects of coronavirus on fertility in Canada are expected to be seen in July and August 2021, the months when most babies are typically born in Canada.
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