Canadian Couples Delaying Parenthood Amid Cost-of-Living Crisis

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A growing number of Canadians are delaying parenthood or choosing not to have children at a time when Canada's fertility rate is at an all-time low. (Marta Iwanek/The Canadian Press)

In the face of an escalating cost-of-living crisis, an increasing number of young Canadian couples are choosing to postpone parenthood, grappling with the financial pressures of raising a family in today’s economic climate.

The Personal Cost of Delaying Parenthood

For 29-year-old Asia Ruuhala-Guzman and her partner, also 29, the dream of starting a family seems distant. Despite a combined annual income of $180,000, the couple finds the prospect of affording a child daunting. Residing in Vancouver, one of Canada’s most expensive cities, they currently rent a one-bedroom apartment for $2,700 a month. The addition of a child would necessitate a larger, more expensive home, alongside rising costs for daycare, food, and clothing.

Ruuhala-Guzman, speaking to The Current, expressed the challenges they face: “All this stuff costs money. So, it’s not just going to come out of thin air.” Like many young Canadians, they feel financially unprepared for the added expenses of raising children.

A National Trend

This sentiment is echoed nationwide. According to Statistics Canada, in 2022, 38% of young adults aged 20 to 29 doubted their financial ability to afford a child within the next three years. The uncertainty extends to housing, with 32% believing they wouldn’t have access to suitable living arrangements to start a family. These concerns contributed to Canada recording its lowest number of births since 2005, with only 351,679 babies born in 2022.

Karen Lawson, head of the Department of Psychology and Health Studies at the University of Saskatchewan, emphasized the complexity of this issue: “The financial costs are higher. The perceived rewards may be fewer. Parenting itself has changed, become more intensive and all-consuming.”

As the country’s fertility rate dwindles, Canada is close to joining a small group of countries with fertility rates lower than 1.3 kids per woman. (Denis Sinyakov/Reuters)

Insights from Research

Lawson’s recent national survey of 1,000 Canadians aged 18 to 35, presented at a conference in Switzerland, sheds further light on these trends. A significant 25% of respondents have decided to wait until at least the age of 35 to have children, primarily due to financial reasons. Additionally, one-third expressed a desire not to have children at all after a cost-benefit analysis.

The Fertility Gap and Future Implications

The resulting “fertility gap” is a growing concern. Canada’s fertility rate is at a historic low of 1.33 kids per woman, significantly below the replacement level of 2.1 children per woman. Demographer Don Kerr from King’s College at Western University warns of the long-term impacts: “A dwindling fertility rate could exacerbate Canada’s challenges with an aging population, impacting pension support and health-care costs.”

Government Actions and Community Efforts

Discussions about government incentives for childbearing have been ongoing. While provinces have adopted the federal government’s $10-a-day daycare program, its long-term effects remain to be seen. Lawson’s research also suggests the need for more parent-friendly educational institutions and practices.

A Shared Struggle

For many young adults like Ruuhala-Guzman, delaying parenthood is a distressing yet necessary choice. However, there is a sense of solidarity in this shared experience. “So many women like us are in the exact same position,” Ruuhala-Guzman noted, finding comfort in the commonality of their situation.