More Canadian births,
By Audrey Wu
Ontario leads the increase
According to Statistics Canada, women in Canada are having more babies
for the first time in a decade. A total of 333,744 babies were born
in 2001, up 1.8 per cent from the year before. The fertility rate (the
average number of children a woman between the ages of 15 and 49 will
have) has risen from 1.49 in 2000 to 1.51. In Ontario, there was an
increase of 3.4 per cent in births, with a total of 131,709 babies.
The largest increase was among mothers in the 30 to 34 and 35 to 39
age groups. In addition, teenage births hit a record low, continuing
the decline that began in 1992.
Though the reason for the increase is uncertain, several reasons may
explain the increase for women in their early 30s who are choosing to
start their families now. Some women may have wanted to establish their
careers before having a baby, even though their biological clock was
ticking. Others may have heeded the warning not to wait too long to
try to have children.
There is also a parallel between births and the extension of parental
benefits under employment insurance. Since December 2000, parental benefits
under the Employment Insurance have increased from a maximum of 10 weeks
to 35 weeks. The economy has improved and increases in the Canada Child
Tax Benefit to $9-billion in the 2000 budget have helped families raise
children in this country. Although "there is a coincidence with the
increase in benefits, … we can't determine if that is why the change
occurred," Statistics Canada spokeswoman Patricia Tully said.
The fertility rate among 25 to 29 year olds still remains highest,
at 97.9 births per 1,000 women, but that number has fallen 26 per cent
since 1981. The rate for women aged 30 to 34, however, has risen 35
per cent to 89.9 per 1,000. Births have increased in Ontario as well
as in Quebec, Saskatchewan and Alberta. Although these statistics are
encouraging, it should be noted that to merely sustain the current population,
the birthrate must be 2.1 children per family.