indicatorThe Twenty-Four

Dependency ratio rose again in 2022

But Alberta continues to have the lowest ratio of any province

By Rob Roach, ATB Economics 14 March 2023 1 min read

Despite its condescending name, the dependency ratio—the number of children plus the number of seniors per 100 people aged 15 to 64—is a useful indicator of the relative socio-economic weight placed on the working age population.

In this regard, Alberta stands out as the province with the lowest dependency ratio at 49.4 as of 2022* compared to a national average of 52.5.

New Brunswick has the highest dependency ratio of any province at 58.0.

The composition of the “dependent” population in Alberta is also different from other parts of the country.

Alberta has a larger proportion of children in its population (18.2%) than every other province except Saskatchewan (19.3%) and Manitoba (18.6%) and the lowest proportion of seniors (14.8%).

Nationally, children represent 15.6% of the population while seniors account for 18.8%.

Newfoundland and Labrador has the highest percentage of seniors at 23.6%.

Alberta may have the lowest dependency ratio among the provinces, but it is in the same boat when it comes to the ratio getting higher over time.

Between 2012 and 2022, Alberta’s dependency ratio went from 41.7 to 49.4 for an increase of 7.7.

Nationally, the index went from 45.3 to 52.5 for an increase of 7.2.

The ratio went up in every province with Newfoundland and Labrador posting the largest increase at 13.0 more dependent age people per 100 working age people in 2022 compared to 2012.

With the exception of Quebec and Saskatchewan, the increase in the dependency ratio was entirely due to a rise in the proportion of seniors.

Thinking of children and seniors as a “burden” as some do when discussing the dependency ratio is overly simplistic, but a growing ratio does present challenges because—all else being equal—it reduces the tax revenue generated by the working age population while increasing the demand for social programs. 

*The annual period of reference is from July 1 of a certain year to July 1 of the following year. Therefore, 2021/2022 refers to the period from July 1, 2021, to July 1, 2022.

Answer to the previous trivia question: The dollar value of Alberta’s international exports of pasta last year was $9.6 million (up from $7.5 million in 2021).

Today’s trivia question: When was the federal voting age in Canada lowered from 21 to 18?

The dependency ratio has been on the rise in both Alberta and Canada

The dependency ratio has been on the rise in both Alberta and Canada

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