Canadian fertility levels drop as living costs increase

Feb 8, 2024 | Canadian News, News

Statistics Canada reported fertility rates in Canada have dropped to the lowest they have been in more than a decade, at 1.3 children per woman in 2022.

Alyssa Featherstone, 24, said she is not ready to have children with her partner because they are not ready for the financial responsibility.

Featherstone lives with two roommates and serves at a restaurant in downtown Toronto. She said she could not imagine having a child without financial security.

“We’re definitely living paycheck to paycheck,” she said. “Savings are tricky. I’m sorry, but without savings, thinking about having kids is really, really tough to do.”

It may be no coincidence that as the cost of living in Canada continues to rise, the total fertility rate (TFR) in Canada continues to drop.

The TFR has been on a steady decline, with an exception in 2021, dropping to 1.3 from 2.1 in 1972. The TFR level in 1972 was the first to drop below the cohort replacement level, the level of fertility at which a population exactly replaces itself from one generation to the next.

“Not only is it unusual to observe an annual decline in all provinces, but this has not occurred for four years in a row — as it did from 2017 to 2020 — since the 1960s,” StatCan said.

StatCan also recorded a steady increase in living costs for Canadians, specifically inflation and housing.

“From May 2021 to April 2023, the all-items Consumer Price Index (CPI) increased by 10.9 per cent, while the CPI for rent rose by 10.1 per cent,” StatCan reported. “Inflationary pressure makes housing affordability challenges harder to weather for many people across the country.”

Despite being relatively stable throughout 2023, grocery prices continue to remain elevated, according to StatCan.

“Grocery price inflation remained broad-based in 2023 with a number of contributing factors, including poor weather in growing regions, higher input costs, diseases such as bird flu and African swine fever, and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine,” StatCan reported.

Mya Deus, 23, said she wants to have children with her partner one day but said they would not have more than two because of the expense.

“I wouldn’t say living expenses have impacted how I feel about having children because I know I still want to have them,” she said. “However, I also know that realistically in our current economy, I would not have the means to provide an abundant life to most likely more than two children, but my partner and I only want two anyways so it works out.”

Deus has a stable full-time job as an executive assistant at Akb Architects and said her position would allow for paid time off to care for her children.

RBC reported on July 14, 2023, that the average cost of raising a child in Canada can be up to $15,000.

“If neither parent is able to stay at home, childcare may be your largest single expense, particularly in the years before your child reaches Kindergarten,” RBC said.

Featherstone said many working parents do not have the option of staying home. They could not take a break from work with pay or pay for childcare without work.

“I worked with somebody who is a little older than me, but just had a baby and was working until she was like six months, seven months pregnant,” Featherstone said. “And I’m sorry, but to be a server at seven months pregnant is wild. I have a lot of respect for her.”

Featherstone said her short-term intention is to prioritize living independently before committing to raising and supporting a child.

“I’ll do the things I want to do because I got one life and I kind of saw the way that having kids changed my parents’ life and not that they regret that at all, it’s a beautiful thing for them,” she said. “I feel like we live in a time where parenthood is not nearly as much of a given as it used to be.”