If you suspected that the Canadian family institution is changing dramatically, you are absolutely right.
The Vanier Institute of the Family concluded, in a report issued early in October, that there is no such entity as the typical family. The report was based on the 2006 Canadian census figures.
While traditional marriages still outnumber other family types, it is rapidly being replaced by the country’s more modern family units, which include single parent, step-parent-blended, same-sex or common law families.
Common-law unions are the fastest growing type of family unit and were 15.5 per cent of all families in 2006. In 1981, common-law unions only amounted to 5.6 per cent of Canadian family units. The 15.5 per cent will surely increase in our next census figures.
Back in 1990, 81 per cent of children under 15 were living with parents who were legally married, but by 2006 that figure had dropped to 66 per cent.
The report stated that today’s families are smaller than in the past and adults wait longer to marry if they tie the knot legally at all.
An interesting fact in the report (some might say disturbing) is that the institute found that there are more couples without children in Canada than those with children and that married couples with children now represent a minority in all Canadian provinces and territories.
Why is this trend happening in our country? Most people in their 50s and 60s can remember the family unit including five or six or more children.
Two-income families are probably necessary in many Canadian cities and larger towns - women are delaying marriage until their 30s – young couples want to travel and to enjoy the finer things in life - but isn’t it alarming when we realize that most families today are choosing not to have any children at all?
What social and societal problems will this lead to in the future? Who will fill Canadian jobs? Who will pay for the cost of looking after our seniors?
In February of this year a parliamentary report said that Canada’s current birth rate of 1.5 is far below the 2.1 replacement rate necessary and that “a major demographic transition is underway.”
The report also states: “With an older population, spending pressures in areas such as health care and elderly benefits are projected to intensify. At the same time, slower labour force growth is projected to restrain growth in the economy, which will in turn slow the growth in government revenue.”
So, with a decreasing birth rate, will we see substantial increases in taxation coupled with major cuts to government services amounting to tens of billions of dollars?
It remains to be seen what the future holds, but one thing is certain – our changing family units with smaller numbers of children will have serious consequences for all Canadians in the future.