It’s Family Day in five Canadian provinces (Ontario, Saskatchewan, Prince Edward Island, Alberta and Manitoba), which means that around half of the country has the day off today. The holiday was first celebrated in Alberta in 1990 and has been spreading since, despite the fact that it’s a pretty ill-defined one. It’s intended as a day for families to spend time together, but it’s really just an excuse to get a day off in what is usually the most miserable month of the year here in the Great Wintery North.
Family Day is an even funnier name for a holiday given some of the demographic trends that Canada – and much of the world, for that matter – is experiencing. Families, as it turns out, are getting smaller everywhere.
Canada’s birth rate, or how many kids are born per respective woman, was measured at 1.63 in 2011, or 11 per 1,000 people. That’s quite a bit below the global average of 18.9 per 1,000 in 2013, but fairly consistent with other developed countries. Americans, for example, have 1.89 babies for every woman.
Either way, any result below 2.1 children for every woman means a country is reproducing under the replacement level, which is the threshold at which the population would hold steady through natural means. If a country is under the replacement level, its population can only grow through immigration, which is what Canada has been doing for some time now. More and more countries are joining this club, however, which is why any worries about overpopulation should be taken with a grain of salt – overall population growth is slowing and will eventually level off and possibly even decline.
Families in many advanced nations are thus getting smaller on the young end through fewer children, but they’re also shrinking on the other end too as older generations are increasingly being shunted off into nursing homes and seniors’ facilities. In the United Kingdom, for example, between a third and a half of seniors lived in a household with at least one of their children in the 1960s. By the 1990s, that had declined to between five and fifteen per cent.
The reasons for this are actually related to technology. Improved economies, driven in large part by technology and globalization, are giving more people the ability to pay for additional services and/or housing for their elders, while increasing self-actualization and individualism are creating a growing need for personal space for people of all generations.
The overall effects on family size are unmistakable. As Statistics Canada puts it:
The early 1960s was near the end of the baby-boom period (1946 to 1965), when many people married at a fairly young age and had relatively large families. By the end of the 1960s, events such as the legalization of the birth control pill, the introduction of ‘no fault’ divorce, as well as the growing participation of women in higher education and in the paid labour force may have contributed to delayed family formation, smaller family size and an increased diversity of family structures.
With all that said, how much longer until Family Day is given a more accurate name? Like, say, Sit At Home Alone and Watch TV in Our Underwear Day?