Population growth slowed to World War I levels in 2020: StatsCan

By James Langton | March 18, 2021 | Last updated on March 18, 2021
2 min read
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Between an increase in deaths due to Covid-19 and its negative effect on immigration, Canada’s population grew at the lowest rate since the middle of World War I last year, according to new data from Statistics Canada.

The national statistical agency reported that Canada’s population grew by just 0.4% in 2020, its lowest rate since 1916. By comparison, the population rose by 1.5% in 2019.

During the year, the population increased by 149,461 to reach 38.05 million.

In 2020, deaths in Canada topped the 300,000 mark for the first time in the country’s history, totalling 309,893.

In the fourth quarter, deaths reached a record quarterly high of 81,759.

“This was mainly due to more deaths from Covid-19 in the fourth quarter (6,324) during the resurgence of the pandemic,” StatsCan said.

Approximately 5.1% of the annual death total (15,561) was directly attributed to Covid-19, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada, StatsCan reported.

The share of deaths in Canada due to Covid-19 was much lower than in the UK (12.3%) or the U.S. (11.2%), StatsCan reported. But it was well above the share in Australia (0.7%) and New Zealand (0.1%).

Births continued to outpace deaths in 2020. There were 372,727 births in 2020, but the balance of births over deaths (62,834) came in at its lowest annual level since at least 1922, it noted.

While natural population growth was very low in 2020, StatsCan said that the pandemic’s effect on immigration was the bigger factor in limiting overall population growth.

Immigration has generated the bulk of Canada’s population growth in recent years.

In 2019, immigration represented 85.7% of population growth, but this dropped to 58.0% in 2020 amid border and travel restrictions due to Covid-19.

There were just 184,624 immigrants in 2020, StatsCan reported, noting that this was almost cut in half from 2019, and marked the lowest annual total since 1998.

Canada’s annual immigration target before the pandemic was 341,000, it said.

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James Langton

James is a senior reporter for Advisor.ca and its sister publication, Investment Executive. He has been reporting on regulation, securities law, industry news and more since 1994.