Scratching at the data

Blake Doyle
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Livings on a sandbar on the East Coast of Canada with a limited resource base, people are arguably our most valuable resource. But like our sandstone foundation, this resource is eroding.

An inspection of our demographics paints a clear picture if you consider what the data is suggesting. Investors, business people and policy makers must consider the image which is coming into focus.

Increasing birthrates indicate potential investments in education infrastructure and future tax contributing citizens; aging populations suggest shifting purchasing patterns and higher allocations to healthcare.

Demographics are only one tool to build forecast models and predictive analytics on trends, investment and where opportunities lie for the business community.

As consequence of the baby boom, most western economies have aging populations. The median age, or the age at the midpoint between the oldest and youngest, vary by country. Canada has a median age of 41.7, the U.S.A. 40.4, Germany 46.1, United Kingdom 40.4, China 36.7, Russia 38.9, and Japan 46.1.

On the other hand, some countries are very young and many lack the necessary infrastructure to support their growth. For example, Uganda’s median age is 15.5 years, Ethiopia 17.6, Afghanistan 18.1.

Emerging countries poised to become greater engines of growth, such as Vietnam 29.2, Iran 28.3, India 27, Brazil 30.7, also have younger populations.

Looking at our province and the decade(s) to come, offer a current median age of 45, but many rural communities are aging more rapidly: Souris has a median of approximately 50 and Tignish at almost 52 (over 60 per cent of the population are greater than 50 years).

Community leaders realize the necessity to grow a population base and to attract younger people, families to populate schools, consume local goods and be employed at local work.

Birth rates have been declining on P.E.I. for decades, yet the population continues to age. In 2011 there were 1,420 births and 1,344 deaths. In four years, by 2018, deaths will outstrip births. The consequences are clear. Our communities require younger people to remain viable. Our province needs more people to sustain itself. Unfortunately, it takes 20 years to make a 20-year-old.

When the Atlantic premiers start to talk of immigration flexibility, I applaud this. It is a generation too late but they must assertively and rapidly seek solutions to support our provinces’ growth and viability.

Broad policy changes presently occurring will make labour attraction very difficult. In the short-run such decisions are applauded as unemployment rates are chronically high (over 20 per cent in some communities).

However, it is important to have a longer-term view. Businesses know their work forces are aging and the prospective younger replacement workers are commuting to other provinces. We lack the human resource base for succession planning within our current community.

More concerning, we lack the human resource base to contribute taxes to support our aging population. A healthy economy is growing with a heavy weighting on younger generations; P.E.I. does not have the current foundation for a healthy or sustainable economy.

We must embrace the opportunity to attract businesses to our Island, we must welcome staff relocations to our province and we must support and encourage immigration across all levels to build a vibrant and stable economy

Blake Doyle is The Guardian's small business columnist. He can be reached at

Geographic location: Canada, East Coast, P.E.I. Uganda

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