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2006 Census: Portrait of the Canadian Population in 2006, by Age and Sex: National portrait

Baby-boomers remain the largest generation

Baby-boomers, people born between 1946 and 1965, were between 41 and 60 years of age in 2006. Despite the fact that they are now older, they still remain the largest group in the population: nearly one out of three Canadians was a baby-boomer in 2006. Forty years ago in 1966, the baby-boomers made up more than 40% of the population.

Figure 7 Different cohorts among the age pyramid of the Canadian population in 2006

Using the baby-boom cohort as a reference point, we can position other major cohorts born in the 20th century. For example, the cohort of the baby-boomers' parents, composed of people born between 1922 and 1938 and who were between 68 and 84 years of age in 2006, is located at the top of the age pyramid. As the number of people belonging to this cohort has already started to decrease under the effect of mortality, which is higher at older ages, they represented fewer than one Canadian out of ten in 2006.

The cohort of the baby-boomers' children is also evident on the age pyramid of the Canadian population in 2006. This group of people, born between 1975 and 1995 and who were between 11 and 31 years in 2006, represented 27.5% of all Canadians according to the 2006 Census. The important size of this cohort is not only explained by the fact that it is the 'echo' of the baby-boom but also because of a higher fertility at the beginning of the 1990s.

Two other cohorts, less important in size because they include fewer years of birth, can be identified on the age pyramid of the population in 2006. First, the Second World War cohort includes people born between 1939 and 1945 and who were between 61 and 67 years of age in 2006. These persons represented 6.4% of the Canadian population in 2006.

Second, there is the 'baby-bust' cohort (1966 to 1974) that corresponds to years following the baby-boom and where fertility declined rapidly in Canada. Largely made of children of the Second World War cohort, this cohort includes 3.9 million Canadians aged between 32 and 40 years in 2006 and represented 12.4% of the population.

Differences in growth of different age groups among the population can mostly be explained by the succession of cohorts of different sizes. For example, the rapid growth of the age group 55 to 64 years as well as the decrease of the age group 30 to 39 years since 2001 can largely be explained by the aging of the baby-boomers, the oldest of them being now more than 60 years and the youngest are no longer in their thirties. The arrival of the smaller size baby-bust cohort compared to the baby-boom at ages where women usually have most of their children also explains why the number of children aged less than 15 years has decreased in Canada since 1996.

The relative sizes of the generations can also help us anticipate certain life-cycle phenomena. For example, it is reasonable to assume that the baby-boomers' parents, who made up much of the seniors' group in 2006, can often rely on several children for support and companionship in their old age. Things could be different for the baby-boomers, many of whom are currently sandwiched between the needs of their aging parents and the needs of their children, many of whom are still at home. Because the baby-boomers limited their fertility more than did their parents, they will have fewer children to rely on when they get older. However, the smaller number of children may to some extent be offset by the larger number of siblings.

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