Study: Canada’s Visible Minority Population in 2017

Statistics Canada, Mar. 22

Roughly one out of every five people in Canada, or between 19% and 23% of the nation’s population, could be a member of a visible minority by 2017 when Canada celebrates its 150th anniversary, according to new ethno-cultural population projections.

Under the scenarios considered for these projections, Canada would have between 6.3 million and 8.5 million visible minorities 12 years from now.

Depending on the growth scenario, this would be an increase ranging from 56% to 111% from 2001, when their number was estimated at about 4.0 million. In contrast, the projected increase for the rest of the population was estimated at between only 1% and 7% between 2001 and 2017.

In 2001, 13% of the population identified themselves as belonging to a visible minority group as defined in the Employment Equity Act.

Data from past censuses showed that the visible minority population is growing much faster than the total population. Between 1996 and 2001, the total population increased 4% while the visible minority population rose 25% or six times faster.

The study showed that regardless of the scenario (low growth or high growth) the visible minority population would continue increasing at a faster pace than the rest of the population between now and 2017.

The same would be true for Canada’s populations of immigrants, allophones and non-Christian religious denominations.

In addition, the ethno-cultural diversity is likely to remain concentrated in a number of urban areas. As was the case in 2001, almost three-quarters of visible minorities in 2017 would be living in one of Canada’s three largest metropolitan areas: Toronto, Vancouver and Montréal. About one-half of the population in Toronto and Vancouver could belong to a visible minority.

Immigration most important factor

Among the factors that account for the more rapid growth in the visible minority population, the most important are unquestionably sustained immigration along with the high proportion of visible minority people among the new arrivals.

Other factors include higher fertility and a “younger” age structure, which result in fewer deaths and higher birth rates for visible minorities than for the rest of the population.

In 2001, about 70% of the visible minority population were born outside Canada.

Despite the rapid increase in the number of Canadian-born visible minority people, the proportion of visible minorities born outside Canada would remain above two-thirds between now and 2017, according to the study.

On the basis of the immigration composition and levels set for the various projection scenarios, Canada’s immigrant population would reach between 7.0 million and 9.3 million in 2017.

This would represent an increase of between 24% and 65% from levels in 2001. Over the same period, the non-immigrant population would experience a much more modest growth of 4% to 12%.

Under the scenario based on the most recent patterns of immigration, fertility and mortality, immigrants would account for 22% of the population by 2017. This would equal the highest proportion reached during any point in the 20th Century. In 2001, immigrants made up about 18% of Canada’s population. Projections provided in the remainder of this release will be based on this scenario.

South Asian population may catch up to the Chinese

Population growth will probably not be divided equally among constituent sub-groups, according to the study. For example, the faster growth of the South Asian group between now and 2017 may put it on equal terms with the Chinese, the visible minority group with the largest population in 2001. The South Asian group has higher fertility than the Chinese and almost as big a share of immigration.

Regardless of the scenario, roughly one-half of all visible minorities in Canada would belong to two groups by 2017: South Asian or Chinese. The projections show that the population of each group would be around 1.8 million.

In 2001, Chinese and South Asians were already the largest visible minority groups in Canada, but their share of the total population differed.

According to the 2001 Census, 1,029,000 individuals identified themselves as Chinese, and they accounted for 26% of the visible minority population. In comparison, the 917,000 South Asians represented 23% of the visible minority population.

Projections show that the Black population would remain the third largest visible minority. It would reach around 1.0 million in 2017, compared with about 662,000 in the 2001 Census.

The visible minority groups that would grow fastest between now and 2017 are the West Asian, Korean and Arab groups. Under most of the projection scenarios, the population of each group would more than double.

Under the reference scenario, the Filipino population, estimated at 309,000 in the 2001 Census, would grow to around 540,000 by 2017, topping the half-million mark in four of the five scenarios.

Under the reference scenario, the number of people whose mother tongue is neither English nor French would reach 7.6 million by 2017, or 22% of the total population. That number was around 5.2 million in the 2001 Census, or 18% of the population.

Vast majority would live in metropolitan areas

Under all scenarios developed for these projections, almost 95% of visible minorities would live in Canada’s census metropolitan areas 12 years from now.

As was the case in 2001, almost 75% of visible minority persons in 2017 would be living in one of Canada’s three largest metropolitan areas: Toronto, Vancouver and Montréal. Toronto would have 45% of all visible minorities, Vancouver 18% and Montréal 11%.

Under four of the five scenarios, more than half the population of Toronto would belong to a visible minority group. The visible minority population of Toronto would range between 2.8 million and nearly 3.9 million in 2017.

Of these visible minorities in Toronto, more than 1.0 million would be South Asian people and more than 735,000 Chinese. This means that more than half of Canada’s South Asians and about 40% of Canada’s Chinese would be living in Toronto in 2017.

The majority of the population in Vancouver would be visible minority persons in 2017, under three of the five scenarios used for these projections. Nearly one-half of the visible minority population would be Chinese.

The visible minority population of Montréal would still be quite different than that of Toronto or Vancouver because of the high proportion of Blacks and Arabs. By 2017, Blacks could represent 27% of Montréal’s visible minority population and Arabs 19%.

Provincially, the visible minority population would be over-represented in 2017 in two provinces (Ontario and British Columbia) as was already the case in 2001 compared with the national average.

Ontario would have a visible minority population of nearly 4.1 million, or 57% of the total, while British Columbia would have 1.4 million, or 20% of the total. Nearly one out of every three people living in British Columbia would belong to a visible minority group in 2017.

Visible minority population would remain younger

The visible minority population should remain younger than the rest of the population 12 years from now. However, it too would be an ageing population with proportionally fewer young people and more seniors.

Projections show that the median age of the visible minority population would be an estimated 35.5 in 2017, about four years more than it was in 2001. In contrast, the median age of the rest of the population would be 43.4 years, nearly six years more than it was in 2001.

This differing age structure could have an impact on the working-age population.

In 2017, for every 100 visible minority persons old enough to leave the labour force, that is, people aged 55 to 64, there would be 142 old enough to join the labour force. These people would be in the group aged 15 to 24.

In the rest of the population, there would be only 75 potential entries for every 100 potential exits.


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