A Nanos Research survey released June 1 by Cardus Family reveals that Canadians want to have more children, but feel there are too many deterrents.
Though no politician would ever come out and say that Canadians should be having more kids, the reality is that the workforce needs it, the tax base needs it and as it turns out, this recent survey says, it’s what Canadians want.
Over the long term, having more children helps with elder care as it spreads the work of direct care between more people. It also spreads the joy aging grandparents have from seeing grandchildren around them in their twilight years.
Despite this need, pressures on young Canadians continue to prevent families from have more children.
According to our survey, Canadians have 2.3 children, on average, but desire 2.8 children on average. Numerous challenges contribute to the gap between intentions and reality, but the biggest is money. Degrees and debt play a role as younger Canadians are travelling a longer path to achieve financial stability.
Having children is costly—in financial terms for the family budget and in terms of career advancement. The reality is that Canadian culture doesn’t make having children seem compatible with career success.
Age, infertility, health issues and time are likewise preventing us from having the number of children we desire. Where degrees and years of training are required for gainful employment, this doesn’t always work well for Mother Nature. Having more children is, to some large degree, dependent on when you start a family, and Canadians are starting later and later.
The result of lower fertility is that in 2015, for the first time in Canadian history, the number of people 65 and over outnumbered those 15 and younger. As the Baby Boom generation increasingly enters the senior years, there are fewer working Canadians supporting the aging population.
So are there any solutions?
For one, we can start by acknowledging that the realm of social policy is not separate from that of economic policy. The two go hand in hand. Families struggling with finances need jobs. The economy matters for families and families matter to the economy.
Second, focus on specific solutions. While many Canadians said they’d like to work less and earn more—wouldn’t we all—this is a difficult aspect to address, where the cost of housing and access to better health care are more concrete. Both were cited as areas to work on for better family life; Canadians raised these issues in roughly equal numbers.
Finally, we should leverage Canadian innovation in all sectors of our economy to find solutions. We are a modern and advanced society with technology and amenities available to meet many needs. It should not be so difficult to accomplish the basics—like having children. Meanwhile, the private sector needs to jump in and help promote a stronger birthrate and easier end-of-life care for our aging population.
Canadians want to have more children. There are barriers to doing so—but overcoming these challenges is a necessity. We need to connect the dots, refusing to see solutions in silos. The elephant in the room as we consider how to best care for our elders is that having more children would help. As a result, we need more focused thought and attention on overcoming the challenges that prevent Canadians from fulfilling their family aspirations. For starters, get the TV out of the bedroom and put it in the basement.
Andrea Mrozek is Program Director of Cardus Family. Peter Jon Mitchell is a Senior Researcher. This op-ed is based on Nanos Research survey results released June 1 and available at www.cardus.ca/family