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BC 2036: We'll be older, more numerous, more urban

In a newly released document, B.C. Stats predicts a population in 2036 that will be "Larger, older, more diverse, and increasingly concentrated in the Lower Mainland."

The projection is called PEOPLE 35 (Population Extrapolation for Organizational Planning with Less Error). It forecasts a provincial population in 2036 of almost 6.1 million -- about 1.6 million more than today. And most of that growth will be from international immigration:

Three quarters of the expected growth over the projection period is a direct result of international migration. The province will show a net gain of about 1.2 million people from migration from other parts of the world, which will further increase diversity of the BC population. A further 18 percent will result from a net inflow of people from other parts of Canada.

Strikingly, in 2009 an average day saw 120 British Columbian births and 85 deaths. By 2036, we'll see 140 daily births but 175 deaths.

The labour force (persons aged 15 to 64) is currently 70 percent of the population, but by 2036, it will be less than two-thirds.

By 2036, almost a quarter of BC residents will be aged 65 or older. In 2009 there were just over two elderly dependents for every 10 people of working age (18 to 64). As a result of the dramatic increase in the proportion of seniors in the population, the ratio will double to four dependents for every 10 potential workers by 2036.

The growth in the senior population will place heavier demands on a number of societal institutions. Not the least of these is health care and housing, particularly as those 80 years and older, will make up an increasing proportion of the senior population over time. In 2009 seniors 80+ accounted for four percent of the population; by 2036 this age group will account for over 7%.

The Lower Mainland will be somewhat more youthful thanks to the influx of younger immigrants, and the Northeast will be younger still thanks to migration to jobs in the energy sector.

The Thompson-Okanagan, however, will be notably older thanks to the high proportion of seniors retiring there. The same will be true of Vancouver Island.

The projection implies a strong need for a highly educated and productive workforce to help support the growing proportion of seniors. The Tyee has dealt with this issue here.

Crawford Kilian is a contributing editor of The Tyee.

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