“Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.”
– John F. Kennedy
Canada continues to evolve and change from a demographic perspective and these forces will shape our economy, business world and yes, even the insurance industry, in the years to come. As Kennedy observed, those who consider these changes and govern their decisions accordingly, stand the best chance of future success.
Canada is growing rapidly compared to most of the developed world. In 1985 there were approximately 25 million Canadians, while today we number over 35 million. By 2050 there will be at least 41 million of us, and probably more.
This population growth comes despite the fact that we only average about 385,000 births a year, or roughly 1.61 children per woman of child bearing age. In order for a population to be sustained that number needs to be closer to 2.1.
However, Canada has the largest net positive migration rate in the G8. Over 200,000 people, or 5.66 per thousand inhabitants, move to Canada every year (we actually allow 265,000, but of course we have some folks who strangely choose to leave Canada – I bet those decisions are made in the dead of winter). When combined with our birth rate, the net positive immigration rate results in overall population growth.
The vast majority of our immigrants gravitate to the large urban centres (some 100,000 now come to Toronto and its suburbs each year). When coupled with the well documented trend of domestic migration from rural to urban areas, or urbanization, this leads to even greater growth in our cities. In fact, it is estimated that the population of Toronto in 2050 will be the same as combining the cities of Montreal and Toronto of today. And we complain about traffic gridlock now!
Interestingly, by 2031, one third of all Canadians will belong to a visible minority, and the percentage in Toronto (and other major centres) will be over 60%. Further, visible minorities tend to be younger – their average age is 33 versus 40 for all of Canada – and tend to have higher birth rates. The face of Canada, particularly its cities, is indeed changing rapidly.
Almost 60% of today’s immigrants come from Asia, most notably India, Pakistan and China. For insurance brokers operating in major urban centres, how are you targeting these emerging, growing communities? Have you hired brokers who are fluent in Punjabi, Cantonese or Mandarin?
Strong immigration is a key reason why we have sustained such a strong housing and condo market in both the GTA and other metropolitan areas in Canada. Demand for housing has remained high. Of course, this growth in urbanization has increased the stress on an already antiquated infrastructure, and the associated need for both investment in, and construction of, new sustainable infrastructure to combat our current infrastructure deficit is well documented.
Indeed, Canada is the 11th largest global economy by GDP, but is currently the world’s 5th largest construction economy, in part due to massive construction expenditures in the oil and gas and mining sectors but also due to the requirements of a growing population. The prognosis for construction spending in Canada appears strong for the foreseeable future.
So as an insurance broker, it makes intuitive sense to be thinking seriously about investment in the construction space if one is not already there.
The face of Canada is also aging. In fact, the fastest growing age group is seniors aged 65 and over. In 2015, there will be more people in this age group than those 15 and younger for the first time in our country’s history.
Currently, there are some 5 million Canadians who are 65 or older, and by 2035 this cohort will double to some 10 million or 25% of Canadians. By 2050, one in ten (more than 4 million people) will be over 80, and unfortunately, deaths will outnumber births in Canada annually from 2020 through to 2046!
What does an aging population require? Obviously, healthcare, assisted living and requisite support services leap immediately to mind. But what about from an insurance perspective? Insurance brokers thinking about this demographic trend might want to consider developing an expertise in the emerging needs of this segment. My guess is the number of businesses that will concentrate on and cater to the aging population will grow significantly. How do you capture these businesses as clients?
The demographic trends of population growth, urbanization, strong immigration and an aging populace are inevitable and will continue to change the face of Canada in the years to come. Those wise enough to consider these changes, as suggested by Kennedy, stand to benefit immensely and won’t miss the future.
For those of us who choose to ignore his advice, and find our insurance careers not working out, we can always try the funeral business. But don’t wait too long, I hear people are just dying to get in.
Wishing you and your families all the very best for a joyous holiday season and a wonderful 2015, and with very best of regards,