Discussion Paper No. 09-03


Among the factors that are responsible for low fertility, the risks experienced by young people are particularly relevant. In that context, it is noteworthy that fertility is rising most in Alberta and Quebec, that is in provinces where young families have had the security of either good job opportunities or supportive social policy.

The fertility trend in Canada has seen a low point of 1.51 in 2002, rising to a total fertility rate of 1.59 in 2006. The trends and differences are placed in the context of family and work questions, including the division of paid and unpaid work by gender. Actual and intended fertility vary especially by marital status and family structure, with lower fertility in situations of less stability. Given the concurrent models of family and work, fertility varies less by women’s work status. We summarize the changing policy context, proposing that social policy has become more supportive of families with young children, especially in Quebec but also in the rest of Canada.

The further policy support for families needs to pay attention to the heterogeneity in the population, and thus to include subsidizing the direct costs of children, along with parental leave and child care. Family formation will also be enhanced through approaches that reduce the risks experienced by young people, and thus the importance of employment security, job satisfaction and affordable housing.