Family planning

How the pandemic has changed family planning in Canada

By Christy Somos, CTVNews.ca Editor

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Toronto, Ontario (TVC network) — Many Canadians are delaying their plans to have children or plan to have fewer due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new analysis from Statistics Canada.

Using data from the first round of the Canadian Social Survey – COVID-19 and Well-Being (CSS-CW), StatCan analyzed whether Canadians aged 15 to 49 had changed their fertility plans due to of the pandemic, including changes in the timing of childbearing, impacts on the number of children desired, and the extent to which certain socio-demographic characteristics were more or less likely to adjust their fertility plans.

The survey results, released in a report Wednesday, found that nearly a quarter (24%) of Canadians aged 15 to 49 in 2021 changed their fertility plans due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Overall, 19% of 15-49 year olds wanted to have fewer children than expected or have a baby later than expected due to the pandemic.

However, 4% of respondents said they now want to have more children than expected or have a baby sooner than expected.

“The unique circumstances of the COVID 19 pandemic may have led some people to delay or abandon their plans to have a child due to health issues, or as a result of side effects of the pandemic such as loss of employment, reduced income, financial uncertainty, or general stress,” the researchers wrote. “On the other hand, for some, the pandemic may have led to a new interest in conceiving a child due more time at home and a desire for a new enriching experience.”

The report describes Canada as a “low fertility country” with a steadily declining fertility rate since 2008. Since the start of the pandemic, the trend has intensified – Canada’s fertility rate has fallen from 1, 47 children per mother in 2019 at a record low of 1.40. children per child carrier in 2020.

In 2020, Canada also had the lowest number of births and the largest year-over-year decline in births, -3.6%, since 2006.

The survey found that the most common change in fertility plans was to delay the birth of children, a finding the study deemed “particularly significant” because Canada is a late childbearing country, the age average carrier of children at the time of delivery being about 31 years. old in 2020.

The survey also found that Canadians who had no children were twice as likely to want to have children later or to have fewer than those who were already parents.

VISIBLE MINORITIES MORE LIKELY TO CHANGE FERTILITY PLANS

The CSS-CW found that people from groups designated as visible minorities were significantly more likely to have said they wanted to have fewer children or have them later, at 25% of respondents, compared to 17% of those n not belonging to these groups.

“This differential may in part reflect the fact that visible minorities have been disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, whether measured by unemployment, financial hardship, or COVID-19 death rates,” wrote the researchers.

The survey noted that neither immigration status nor LGBTQ2S+ status had a significant impact on a person’s likelihood of changing their fertility plans, but noted a regional trend comparing the Atlantic provinces to Ontario and Quebec.

Sixteen percent of people living in the east coast provinces and 13 percent of those living in Quebec said they wanted fewer children or had them later, compared to 22 percent in Ontario. The survey posits that this may have to do with youth employment rates, housing affordability and availability, and low-cost child care unique to Quebec.

The researchers wrote that it remains to be seen whether or not Canada’s total fertility rate will return to pre-pandemic levels in the coming years or continue the downward trend seen in recent years.

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