No Kidding: Childfree Couples on the Rise in Canada
Childfree Canadian households are on the rise, and some enlightening facts tell a rather complex story of economic insecurity and gender disparities.

Childfree Canadian households are on the rise, and some enlightening facts tell a rather complex story of economic insecurity and gender disparities.

According to Statistics Canada, couples without children comprise almost 26% of Canadian households. That statistic may not seem surprising unless you also consider that the number of childfree Canadian couples is growing. With the typical order of love, marriage, and children so ingrained into our societies, how and why are these Canadians bucking the trend? Some enlightening facts tell a rather complex story.

Fewer Children and Dropping Birthrates

CBC News revealed Statistics Canada’s findings from its most recent National Household Survey in an August 2017 article. In some provinces, childfree couples make up over 50% of the population. A Global News piece from May 2017 also mentions that the Canadian birthrate has dropped to an average of 1.6 children per woman. Earlier figures from Statistics Canada (StatCan) show that the total population of those aged 24 and younger has slowly declined from 48.1% in 1971 to 29.9% in 2010.

Money Matters and Raising Kids

What could account for decreases in both the total number of children and the current birthrate? Some childfree households are made up of aging empty nesters. Even so, many younger couples are simply choosing not to have kids at all. Economic concerns are one major reason, as journalist Andrew Russell explains in his May 2017 Global News article. StatCan disclosed that 34.7% of Canadian adults under 35 still live with their parents. Susan McDaniel, a global population researcher at the University of Lethbridge, stresses three key factors influencing younger couples to delay or forgo having kids:

  • Rising expenses
  • Lower wages
  • Lack of job security

Not only that, the costs of raising kids have also skyrocketed. Global News reported in January 2017 some alarming estimates from MoneySense, which placed a $243,656 price tag on caring for one child from birth to age 18. What’s even more disturbing are the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives’ findings that childcare expenses have risen two to three times more than inflation.

Concerns About Gender Inequality

Men in heterosexual relationships are taking on more housework and childrearing responsibilities. However, there’s still a lingering gender imbalance when it comes to kids, careers, and earnings. New York Times writer Claire Cain Miller mentions that in a 2018 survey of people under 45, many respondents commented that they worried about having sufficient time and money to raise children. She also suggests a deeper story behind those answers. Women now view childbearing as a choice rather than an obligation.

Cain Miller comments in another NYT piece that the gender pay gap widens the most when women are in their late 20s and early 30s, coinciding with the births of their children. Some may put their careers on hold, while others find themselves working the familiar “second shift,” taking on a greater share of housework and childcare responsibilities. With these realities, women can fall behind their male counterparts in both career advancement and earning power. Suggested solutions include greater workplace flexibility and public policy providing affordable childcare and ample leave to parents of all genders.

Meanwhile, childfree women still face curiosity, social stigma, and sometimes disdain. The Cut’s Mandy Stadtmiller discusses her experiences and the methods she uses to deal with invasive questions. Gender norms may also play a role in these situations, especially ideologies emphasizing that the ideal goal for women is to marry and become mothers.

Childfree Couples? It’s More Likely Than You Think

Without economic stability, it’s hard for many young adults to conceive of a future that includes children. Moreover, gender-based disparities in pay and household responsibilities can also impact the decision to have kids. While some suggest balancing individual rights with the public good, others see deeper economic and social justice issues that must be addressed first.


Incarceration Statistics That Should Have all Canadians Concerned
The outside of a prison.

Recent incarceration statistics have shown a dramatic increase in Amerinds and Black Canadians.

In 2014, The New Observer reported concerns about the rising population rates of Amerinds and blacks in Canadian federal prisons. According to incarceration statistics, both races were highly over-represented in the prison system when you look at the overall population in the country. Two-and-a-half years later, The Torontoist reports, “There are 70 per cent [sic] more Black Canadians in federal prison than there were 10 years ago…” In addition, Howard Sapers, Correctional Investigator, released his annual report of the status of the prisons. He found that from 2005 to 2015 the overall population in the correction system in Canada grew by 10 percent. The Aboriginal inmate population grew by more than 50 percent. This phenomenon was evident in both male and female populations.

Who Is Howard Sapers?

Why should you listen to Sapers? He was appointed to his position as Correctional Investigator of Canada in 2004. This is his 11th annual report. He is not tied to any political climate, as he has served under two Prime Ministers and under five different Ministers of Public Safety. During his tenure in his position, his team has responded to over 200,000 complaints and calls. Sapers has provided testimony to many different Parliamentary Committees and responded to criminal justice reforms handed down by the government. He believes in human dignity and decency even for those who are deprived of their liberty. Sapers is an advocate for a fair and rational criminal justice system.

In his message of his annual report, he breaks down the incarceration statistics even further, offering some interesting statistics:

  • Twenty-five percent of the prison population is now 50 or older.
  • Only about 40 percent of inmates have a formal education of grade eight or higher.
  • Sixty percent of inmates have not graduated high school.
  • Sixty percent of female inmates require prescription medications to manage their mental health needs.
  • Seventy percent of female inmates report histories of sexual abuse.
  • Eighty-six percent of women in the prison system report physical abuse at some point in their lives.
  • Eighty percent of the male inmates have experienced addiction and substance abuse.

Is Racism the Problem?

The Torontoist reports that the high rate of blacks in prison is due to racism and over-policing. In Canada, blacks make up about three percent of the general population but 10 percent of the prison population. Indigenous Canadians make up 24.4 percent of the federal prison population but only 4.3 percent of the general population. This is not a problem just in Canada. In the United States, the numbers aren’t quite as pronounced, but African-Americans make up 13 percent of the general population and account for 37 percent of the prison population.

One local lawyer is calling for an initiative similar to the 1991 Aboriginal Justice Strategy that was created to address the growing population of Indigenous Canadians in the prisons. It offered restorative justice and diversion programs and alternative sentencing. In 2011, a report was issued that outlined the success of the AJS. It had this to say:
“Evidence that the long-term outcome of the AJS of ‘reduced crime and incarceration rates in communities with funded programs’ is being achieved is evident through the results of the recidivism study, which found a significant difference between rates of re-offending of AJS-funded program participants and a comparison group.”

Unfortunately, these same outcomes are not being seen in the prisons.

Are There Solutions?

Some might say that criminals get what they deserve. They do have to pay for their crime, but when you look at some of Sapers’ findings, one has to wonder if the solution starts with ensuring people have an education and that their mental health needs are taken care of. Women who are abused need help to improve their self-confidence and outcomes. Things won’t change overnight, but these statistics should concern everyone.