Monday, Apr 19, 2004

Birth rate falls to historic low

Globe and Mail Update

The number of babies born in Canada fell to a record low in 2002, Statistics Canada said Monday.

Live births in the country dropped for the 11th time in 12 years, the agency said in a report on births in 2002.

That year in Canada, 328,802 babies were born, down 1.5 per cent from the previous year.

The agency also talked about the dips in the crude birth rate the number of live births for every 1,000 population.

"The crude birth rate dropped to 10.5 live births for every 1,000 population, the lowest since vital statistics began to be produced nationally in 1921. The rate has dropped 25.4 per cent in the last 10 years alone," Statscan said.

Statistics Canada also examined the fertility rate in 2002, which is the average number of children that women aged 15 to 49 will have in a lifetime. The agency found that the rate fell slightly to 1.50 children per woman in 2002 from 1.51 children per woman in 2001.

The record low, set in 2000, was 1.49 children.

Among the provinces, Saskatchewan had the biggest decline in the number of live births. They fell 4.2 per cent in 2002 to 11,761.

Alberta, meanwhile, had an increase of 2.8 per cent in terms of live births, with 38,691 babies being born in 2002.

Statscan said the biggest impact on the number of live births was felt in Ontario and Quebec.

"Combined, these two provinces accounted for almost 4,400 fewer live births in 2002," the agency said.

Across Canada, the province with the highest fertility rate in 2002 was Saskatchewan, with a rate of 1.82 children per woman. Newfoundland and Labrador had the lowest with a rate of 1.31.

Among the territories, Nunavut had a rate of 3.04.

Compared with other nations around the world, Canada falls somewhere in the middle in terms of fertility. The United States, France, Australia and the United Kingdom have higher rates and Italy, Japan and Germany have lower rates. The replacement level is 2.1 children per woman.

Women in the United States have averaged at least two children per woman since 1989.

The average age of mothers continues to rise, Statscan says.

In Canada in 2002, the average age was 29.5, up a full year from a decade previous.

The youngest first-time mothers resided in Nunavut among the territories, with an average age of 21.5 years old.

Among provinces, the youngest first-time mothers resided in Saskatchewan, at 25.2 years.

The oldest first-time mothers were in Ontario and British Columbia, at 28.5 years.

The national average age for first-time mothers in Canada in 2002 was 27.7 years.

Statscan said two decades mothers in their 20s had by far the most live births. That has changed, however.

"Since that time, the proportion of births to mothers in their 30s has grown, particularly for mothers in their early 30s. By 2002, 44.8 per cent of births were to mothers aged 30 to 39, up from only 23 per cent of births in 1982."