|Film poster for Baby Boom - Copyright 1987, United Artists (Photo credit: Wikipedia)|
Tuesday was my daughter’s first birthday, a celebration that kicked-off at about 5:20 a.m. A few hours later, Statistics Canada reassured us we were not alone in our bleary-eyed joy.
The 2011 census offered us a showstopper of a statistic, a number that injects new life into our greying population while shattering the notion that Canadians are not having kids anymore.
We are having kids, lots of kids. The number of Canadian tots aged four and under increased by 11% between 2006 and 2011, a baby boom not seen since the Baby Boom.
Boom 2.0 marks the highest five-year rate of growth among the Mini-me crowd since 1956 to 1961.
And the birthing trend is national in scope. Fertility rates nudged to within a whisker of 1.7 kids per family, up from 1.5 in 2001.
Albertans, with a robust economy and young families aplenty, are the nation’s most productive reproducers with a birth rate of 1.8, reflected by a 20.9% jump among kids under four.
Saskatchewan (19.6%) and Quebec (17.5 %) are likewise beefing up on tots.
Why the boom? Demographics. Baby Boomers’ kids, the so-called Echoes, may not have jobs for life but they have a zest for creating new life and an army of potential new Moms to do it. The number of women in the 21-34 age bracket is ballooning, a numeric reality any parent hoping to secure a daycare slot in a major Canadian city without putting their name on a waiting list at the moment of conception can fill you in on.
There is more at play here, though, a deeper societal shift, a reawakening of a yearning to go forth and multiply. It ebbed away in the 1960s when women joined the workforce in ever-greater numbers, the cost of living increased and family photos featuring three or four or more kids became the preserve of the rich and the nanny-supported, or poorer immigrant families bound by custom and kept afloat by social welfare.
“Women were doing more paid work, so they didn’t have time to have children,” Roderic Beaujot, a demographer at the University of Western Ontario, said. “Having children has become more positive.”
And practical. Things like parental leave, $7-a-day daycares in Quebec, RESPs and the Universal Child Care Benefit have softened the economic blow of feeding a growing brood. Another factor is the changing nature of work.
“With the way that technology is advancing, it is increasingly easy to seek out alternative work arrangements like working from home, starting your own online business, and so on,” says Amber Strocel, a Vancouver-based writer/Mommy blogger. “With more flexibility around work-life balance, it becomes easier to have children. The same technology also makes it easier to stay connected with friends and family, which means a better support network.
“That also makes it easier to have children.”
Doug Norris, the former director of social and demographic statistics with Statistics Canada, cautions against reading too much into the numbers. We are getting older, he says, not younger as a country, and our current baby blip is a passing bump, an accident of demography that will not save us from our greying selves — from skyrocketing healthcare costs — postponed retirement parties and underfunded Canadian pension plans.
“In 20 years, one in four of us is still going to be up over the age of 65 almost inevitably,” he says. “There would have to be a substantial increase in the fertility rate and I don’t see that coming.”
Instead of taking over, Canada’s army of tots appears to be just passing through town. Marching through the statistics, celebrating first birthdays, making mornings foggily perfect for a new generation of Moms and Dads.
National Post, with files from news services
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