Population plunge predicted in N.L.

Sue Bailey, The Canadian Press
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Over Newfoundland and Labrador’s good-news story of economic renewal looms a demographic dilemma: a population plunge that’s projected to be the most dramatic slide in the country.

The Conference Board of Canada’s most recent long-term forecast predicts the province’s population will fall from about 527,000 now to 482,000 by 2035.

“We’re going to see much weaker economic prospects for Newfoundland over the next 20 years and that will have an effect on the population,” said Marie-Christine Bernard, associate director of the board’s provincial forecast.

“I would say it’s going to be a difficult situation for the province.”

Despite baby bonus incentives and other government efforts since 2008, Bernard said the population is expected to shrink more here over the next two decades than any other part of Canada. An aging demographic will be compounded by out-migration of workers — especially if offshore oil production wanes as expected, she said.

The board’s forecast considers fertility rates, major economic developments and trends such as interprovincial migration and immigration.

Recent offshore oil discoveries in the Flemish Pass, if developed, could brighten the picture, but are not certain, Bernard said.

Statistics Canada demographer Laurent Martel said a major issue is that deaths in the province exceed births. It’s a troubling reversal of what’s referred to as natural increase. For example, the Canadian population as a whole is growing even without immigration due to about 130,000 more births per year than deaths, he explained.

“Newfoundland and Labrador is the only province for which up to now we’ve seen three years of negative natural increase,” Martel said from Ottawa.

From July 1, 2012 to July 1, 2013, there were 286 more deaths than births, according to the most recent statistics.

Newfoundland and Labrador’s birthrate, at 1.45 per woman as of 2011, is second lowest in the country next to British Columbia at 1.42.

The provincial government in 2008 introduced benefits offering parents $1,000 for each child born or adopted, plus $100 per month for the first 12 months after adoption or birth. The number of births came up slightly, according to Census records, but with 4,420 registered in 2013 that has now dropped back below rates recorded before the incentives were introduced.

The provincial government notes that the overall population of 527,000 is up almost 18,000 since 2007. It says it’s working on a growth strategy that includes specific labour market needs, family-friendly policies and immigration.

Another challenge is the extent to which residents are greying. Provincial human resources officials have projected 70,000 job openings by 2020 mainly due to retirement or death.

Kevin O’Brien, the advanced education and skills minister, said yearly immigration has increased to more than 700 newcomers from 450 since 2007. He said a provincial nominee program that helps recruit people for hard-to-fill jobs has been key to that success.

Liberal Opposition critic Lisa Dempster said the Progressive Conservative government must do much more. Ministers talk a good game about the importance of immigration, but last spring’s deficit-laden budget cut funding for the Office of Immigration and Multiculturalism almost in half, she said in an interview.

“That tells you where it is on the list of priorities but yet the need is very great for us to have some strategies in place in this area as well.”

NDP Leader Lorraine Michael said another major gap is in regulated, affordable child care.

“A full child-care program integrated into full early childhood education, including all-day kindergarten, would really go a long way towards encouraging young people to stay here and to have families here,” she said in an interview.

Paul Davis, the child, youth and family services minister, told the legislature Dec. 2 that the province now has 7,787 regulated child-care spaces — up almost 70 per cent since the Tories took power in 2003. More spaces will be created as part of a 10-year strategy, he said.

Dempster said those services still pale compared to the needs of about 50,000 children under the age of 10 in the province.

The former employment counsellor also said labour gaps could be better filled with a streamlined focus on getting newly trained apprentices into jobs.

“It’s like trying to get blood from a turnip for these people to find work.”


Twitter: @suebailey

Organizations: Conference Board of Canada, Statistics Canada, Office of Immigration and Multiculturalism

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, British Columbia

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Recent comments

  • Susan
    February 11, 2014 - 10:13

    People are asking for free daycare, Here a crazy thought, since we are paying young men and women to stay home, And they are receiving taxpayers dollars, Lets put them to work, after all most of them are living in home, that are also being pay for by the taxpayers, don't you think, its time to earn their money also.

  • Linda
    February 11, 2014 - 09:44

    @ Me, Free daycare is a expense to me, I'm paying enough, Pay and raise your own children.

  • Me
    February 10, 2014 - 21:38

    Free daycare is the answer, and it's not an expense for our government! Last year, the University of Sherbrook, did a study about what is the true cost for the government of Québec, for their politics to subsidies daycare ($7 a day for parents). You can find the copy of this study on the university’s website: http://www.usherbrooke.ca/chaire-fiscalite/fr/publications-cffp/cahiers-recherche-cffp/ In the conclusion, it’s possible to read : “One way to sum it up is that in 2008 each $100 of daycare subsidy paid out by the Quebec government generated a return of $104 for itself and a windfall of $43 for the federal government.” In the press, there is few articles about this study (in French) : - http://www.ledevoir.com/economie/actualites-economiques/347300/payantes-pour-l-etat-les-garderies-a-7 - http://www.radio-canada.ca/nouvelles/Economie/2012/04/12/016-garderie-subventionnees-rentables.shtml It's easy to understand that subsidies for daycare means : - new jobs (educators) in daycares (= less unemployment = less social expenses), - give a chance for mothers to return at work earlier, and create value for their companies ($ in taxes), and with a better incomes they will pay more incomes taxes and HST. etc., etc. And at the end, it's more money for government than its own subsides. So, what are we waiting for ?

  • Chantal
    February 10, 2014 - 13:46

    So whatever happened to the government trying to attract more immigrants?

  • Joe
    February 10, 2014 - 12:30

    A suggestion, the government could try to attract people from China as the government there is no longer business friendly as it is throwing business criminals in jail. We could invite them to the province so they can carry on their fraudulent activities here.

  • Reading Rainbow.
    February 10, 2014 - 11:39

    About 50% of Newfoundland's population is functionally illiterate. The government has known this for years and held back on the release of of a Strategic Literacy Plan to address that issue. If 50% of the population can't read or write well enough to function, I'd say that's a BIG problem for employers. But what does the govt. do about this? N-O-T-H-I-N-G.

  • david
    February 10, 2014 - 11:01

    The oblivious, we-really-don't-get-it comments here reflect a mentality well suited to the "swirling toilet bowl" scenario this place is firmly in. Fascinating.....

  • SayWhat
    February 10, 2014 - 10:58

    I am kind of surprised by the story. The two daily newspapers in this province have been sitting on this time of information for about two weeks. And they missed it completely. Go back a couple of weeks when the Health Minister visited Corner Brook. There was a story about the new hospital. An ADM, a Dr.Bradbury I believe stated a demographic study had been done up to 2026. I would like to know what is in that study. Instead of the Conference Board of Canada, what are the details of this study Dr.Bradbury is referring to.

  • Nancy Johnson
    February 10, 2014 - 10:55

    At $1200 a month for infant care, or $800 for older, yep, free daycare would entice me to have a child.

  • joebennett
    February 10, 2014 - 10:25

    We have not seen the worst of it yet. Wait till our aging population has to pay for those exorbitant power bills because of this totally unnecessary Muskrat Falls. If the increased power bills cannot cover the Muskrat Loan, then you will see a big decrease in services. Either way, we will all be at the mall to keep warm. Shame on this PC government.

  • JD
    February 10, 2014 - 09:57

    I really feel that the environment for having children here is not ideal. The cost of childcare is astronomical to have a family of 4 is not cheap. So much so that often, one parent just quits work. But if we suddenly had cost-effective childcare (not saying free), and the population starts to increase, then what about the schools. Already they are maxed out. As I heard one person say: Lots of houses being built but when was the last time they added school desks or hospital beds? Even if they reversed the trend, the bottleneck is scary.

  • Linda
    February 10, 2014 - 09:21

    @ D, why would you ask me to pay to take care of your children? No one help me and my husband, to raise our children,

    • D.
      February 10, 2014 - 10:05

      Because Linda, if you can overcome your own short-sightedness and small-mindedness, you'll see this is a start too overcoming the problem of a plummeting population. Or did you read the article? Why should my tax dollars pay for hospitals, I might ask, when I'm healthy right now? Where you're older and retired and looking for health care, where are the tax dollars going to come from? Where are the younger people going to come from to support you in your old age? Foreign workers? Good luck replacing our entire population with an influx of immigrants. Most people I know are having one child simply because that's all they can afford. Quebec has a different model- universal child care- and it works well for them.

    • Me me me
      February 10, 2014 - 10:14

      Why should I pay for your street to be paved? I don't own a car. Gotta love the "the world stops at the end of my nose" mentality of the right wingers. It reminds us that maybe Darwin was wrong after all.

    • Thomas
      February 10, 2014 - 10:35

      Because Linda when you live in a society based on social programs we contribute to all programs through our taxation. Some we use, others we use very little. I may require help raising my three kids but never had a sick day in my life. The couple down the street with no kids may be living with a life long illness that could require significant medical care paid for by the tax base. If you don't by in to this move the to states.

  • D.
    February 10, 2014 - 09:07

    Free daycare. That's the simple answer. The costs now are too much for most people to afford two children and work. With nan and pop acting as free babysitters and the looming erosion in the tax base, it's better to make the investment now than have the population trend continue downward.

  • Jon
    February 10, 2014 - 08:19

    And of course, the comment section turns into a discussion on Muskrat Falls,. In a story that has nothing to do with it.

    • Calvin
      February 10, 2014 - 09:13

      You gotta love it Jon, these same people were blasting government and Nalcor a month ago when there was a power outage. I am sure they are the same people who complain about the lineup at Tim's every morning, the cost of a carton of milk and the temperature outside..... all of which are no doubt government's fault.

  • Maurice E. Adams
    February 10, 2014 - 07:01

    While Nalcor justified Muskrat Falls on the basis that RESIDENTIAL demand for power would be the driving force for increased electricity demand, it seems we can expect an older population, a death rate higher than our birth rate, and an expected decrease in population of 45,000 people. Less people means each residence will pay even more to pay off an unneeded Muskrat Falls project.

    • Sadly Obsessed
      February 10, 2014 - 11:59

      Another desperate attempt to drag everything into his personal crusade.

  • Joe
    February 10, 2014 - 07:00

    As 2017 and Muskrat Falls grow nearer I am considering moving to another Atlantic province. Housing prices are less over inflated and I turned off by a government making me pay 100 per cent for 40 per cent of anything.

  • Adrian Brennan
    February 09, 2014 - 23:44

    If wages were better in NL than more people would want to stay here. I am a retired teacher and the majority of my former students are working in other provinces or countries. I too may be speaking employment out of province because there is a mentality in this province that you don' have to be competitive when it comes to wages. We are loosing our young energetic men and women to. Wake up government and catering to big business.

    • D
      February 10, 2014 - 09:03

      I have a degree in geology with close to ten years experience in the business and recently spoke to a recruiter about a position in a mine near Baie Verte. The difference between my previous salary and their offer was $25,000, or about 30%, and they weren't prepared to move an inch. On top of that, they told me that it must have been because of my remote location on the previous job- until I told them I was working in a city of 50,000 people and Baie Verte is lucky to have about 2000. I want to work in Newfoundland but a young worker like me will leave 100% of the time when the opportunities look like that. Shameful.

  • sally
    February 09, 2014 - 22:37

    Its way too hard to get a entry level job in nl. Almost impossible.

    • Brad
      February 10, 2014 - 15:58

      Agreed. Employers have a laundry list of requirements, and even if you meet them, good luck getting an interview. Newfoundland: You will be losing some really good workers if you don't give the entry-level crowd a chance. New Brunswick is going through this mess right now.