Last year, British Columbia reported its lowest annual number of newborns since 2006, according to a new report on births from Statistics Canada.
The province saw 41,833 newborns in 2022, which marks a continued downward trend since 45,269 British Columbians were born in 2016. The last year that saw fewer births was in 2006, when 41,753 babies were born.
B.C. had about 46,000 annual births in the early 1990s but the rate fell to below 41,000 for each year between 2000 and 2005, until rebounding to the most recent peak in 2016.
Births had been declining annually since 2016 until 2021, when they jumped to 44,050.
Similar rates and patterns are shown nationally, as 353,656 babies were born in Canada in 2022, down from the recent peak of 378,008 in 2017.
Statistics Canada noted how the pandemic has caused fluctuations in births: “Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, birth patterns have fluctuated more erratically. From 2019 to 2020, the number of births declined by 3.3%, followed by a rebound (+2.6%) from 2020 to 2021. From 2021 to 2022, Canada saw an even greater decrease (-5.0%) in the number of births.
Nova Scotia saw an increase in live births (+12.8%) in 2022, while all other jurisdictions declined.
Declining birth rates are accelerating from prior projections
The rate of decline in births shows a marked departure from Statistics Canada and B.C. vital statistics projections, from July 2019.
Then, officials projected anywhere from 47,000 to 48,000 annual births in B.C. between 2020 and 2022. The projection put births reaching 50,000 by 2026-2027.
Meanwhile, the projection had forecasted the net natural change in population to become negative in 2034. However, per BC Vital Statistics Agency record, that already occurred in 2021 when 44,720 deaths were replaced by just 44,073 births (-657); and in 2022 there were 45,995 deaths as compared to 41,925 births (-4,070). To August of this year, 28,875 British Columbians have died as compared to 26,150 being born. Were this year’s trend to continue, B.C. would see another 3,633-person decline in the natural population.
Of course, as a result of immigration, B.C.’s population continues to increase annually despite Canadians having fewer babies and more people dying.
B.C.’s fertility rate is also declining faster than that of Canada. In 2021, B.C.’s fertility rate was 1.21 children per woman (1.43 in Canada), down from 1.47 children per woman in 2006 and 1.68 in 1991 (1.72 in Canada), according to Statistics Canada’s 2022 report.
Moms giving birth at older age
The statistics report also showed trends in the age of the mother; here in B.C., babies are increasingly being born to older mothers: 16,504 moms were age 30-34; 10,704 were age 35-39; 8,991 were age 25-29; 2,638 were age 20-24 and 2,425 were age 40-44.
Moms age 20-24 have declined 26 per cent, between 2018 and 2022, whereas moms age 40-44 increased 18 per cent.
There were also 371 babies born to moms age 15-19, a number that is also on the decline from 496 in 2018 (and 2,672 in 1991). Five explicit minors gave birth in B.C. in 2022 (as compared to roughly 30 per year in the early 1990s).
Meanwhile, “the percentages of babies born at term in 2020, 2021 and 2022 remained stable in comparison with those observed in the years prior to the pandemic,” noted the report.