Ontario's Long-Term Report on the Economy
Chapter I: Demographic Trends and Projections


This chapter presents demographic trends unfolding in Ontario and discusses how the government is addressing their far-reaching implications.

The following key trends have been identified:

  • Population growth will continue but the pace will moderate;
  • Immigration will account for a predominant and rising share of population growth;
  • Seniors will make up a much larger share of the population;
  • Slower growth will occur in the core working-age group (15­–64); and
  • Population growth will be strongest in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).1

The population projections on which this demographic outlook is based are the latest from the Ontario Ministry of Finance (Spring 2016). The assumptions behind them reflect past trends in all streams of migration and the continuing evolution of long-term fertility and mortality patterns. While these assumptions are believed to be reasonable, there is always uncertainty in such projections. Therefore, while this report focuses on the medium scenario, low and high scenarios for population projections are also produced to reflect this uncertainty.2

TABLE 1.1 Highlights of the Long-Term Demographic Projections, Base-Case Scenario
Measures Historical
Population (000s) 13,264 13,983 14,788 15,614 16,428 17,205 17,802
Average Annual Growth from Previous Year Listed (%) 1.1 1.3 1.1 1.0 0.9 0.9
Age Distribution (%) - 0–14 16.6 15.9 15.8 15.7 15.7 15.3 15.0
Age Distribution (%) - 15–64 69.1 67.8 65.6 63.0 60.7 59.9 59.8
Age Distribution (%) - 65+ 14.2 16.4 18.7 21.3 23.6 24.7 25.2
Total Dependency Ratio1 45 48 53 59 65 67 67
[1] Measured as the number of children aged 0–14 and seniors (65+) per 100 people of core working age (15–64).
Sources: Statistics Canada for 2006–2016 and Ontario Ministry of Finance projections.

Suggested policy approaches and current government initiatives to help address the key challenges presented by these demographic trends include encouraging underrepresented groups to participate in the labour market, modernizing and improving the delivery of quality health care for seniors, supporting seniors’ incomes and encouraging retirement savings, and improving the economic conditions of all regions of the province.

Population Growth Is Moderating

Since 1971, Ontario population growth has averaged 1.3 per cent annually. The provincial population grew from 7.8 million in 1971 to 14.0 million in 2016, rising on average by more than 136,000 per year. Ontario’s share of the Canadian population also rose, from 35.7 per cent in 1971 to 38.5 per cent in 2016.

From 2016 to 2040, Ontario’s population is projected to continue growing, but at a moderating pace, from 1.3 per cent in 2016 to 0.8 per cent in 2040. Overall, the provincial population is projected to increase from 14.0 million in 2016 to 17.8 million in 2040, adding another 3.8 million people over this period.

Population Growth Sustained by Immigration

Population growth occurs through natural increase (births minus deaths) and net migration (net international plus net interprovincial migration). Over the past four decades, the share of population growth accounted for by natural increase has declined, due to low fertility rates and increasing immigration. In the 1970s, about two-thirds of population growth came from natural increase. More recently, natural increase has accounted for less than 40 per cent of Ontario’s population growth.

From 2016 to 2040, as projected fertility rates remain relatively low and population aging continues, this downward trend is expected to continue. By 2040, only 13 per cent of population growth is projected to come from natural increase.

As a result of this decline in natural increase, net migration is set to become even more important to sustaining population growth in the province.

The largest component of net migration is immigration. Annual immigration to Ontario is projected to remain strong. Annual immigration as a share of population is expected to remain at about 0.8 per cent of the population to 2040. This is in line with the recent increase in the immigration target set by the federal government and reflects the consensus on the importance of immigration for the demographic and economic growth of Canada and Ontario.3

Interprovincial Migration

Historically, the contribution of interprovincial migration to Ontario’s population growth has been minor, with periods of gains usually followed by periods of losses in a pattern closely tied to economic cycles. However, in any specific year, net gains or losses of people to and from other provinces have had a significant impact on annual population growth in the province.

Population Aging

For decades, low fertility rates and increasing life expectancies have contributed to the aging of the population. Life expectancy at birth for men increased from 72.0 years in 1980 to 79.8 years in 2011, and for women from 78.9 years to 84.0 years. By 2040, life expectancy is projected to reach 86.4 years for men and 88.5 years for women.

In Ontario, this trend has been intensified by the aging of the baby boomer generation, born from the mid-1940s to the mid-1960s.

In 1970, almost 30 per cent of Ontario’s population was under the age of 15 and seniors accounted for only eight per cent of the population. In 2016, the number of seniors surpassed the number of children aged 0–14 (children accounted for 15.9 per cent of total population, while seniors accounted for 16.4 per cent).

The number of seniors in Ontario is projected to almost double from 2.3 million in 2016 to 4.5 million by 2040. Even faster growth is projected for the oldest age group during this period, with the population aged 85 and over almost tripling. By 2040, seniors will account for 25.2 per cent of Ontario’s population.

Population Aging in Perspective

The pace of population aging varies around the world. In 2015, the proportion of seniors in Ontario and Canada’s population was slightly below the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) average of 16.2 per cent, but significantly lower than the European Union’s 19.2 per cent. In Italy and Germany, more than one in five residents are already aged 65 and over. At 26.3 per cent in 2015, Japan’s proportion of seniors was already higher than what is projected for Ontario in 2040 (25.2 per cent).

Slower Growth of the Core Working-Age Group

Historically, Ontario’s growth in the core working-age population (ages 15–64) was mainly driven by young people turning 15 and immigration. Over the past 40 years, Ontario’s working-age population grew at an average annual rate of 1.3 per cent. In the 1960s and 1970s, baby boomers joined the 15–64 age group, swelling its ranks. In the 2000s, their children, the echo generation, reached working age.

From 2016 until the late 2020s, the passage of large cohorts of baby boomers into retirement age will be the main factor influencing the moderation of growth in the core working-age group. By 2031, once all baby boomers have left the core working-age group, the pace of growth will increase; however, the growth rate will be slower than it has been historically.

Over the period from 2016 to 2040, the core working-age population is projected to increase by 12 per cent — an average annual increase of 0.5 per cent. By 2040, Ontario’s core working-age population is projected to number almost 10.7 million and to account for 59.8 per cent of the population, down from 67.8 per cent in 2016.

Since more people now turn 65 each year than young people turn 15, future growth of the core working-age group will come exclusively from net migration.

Concentration of Population Growth in the Greater Toronto Area

As population aging continues and with less growth coming from natural increase, many regions of the province where natural increase had previously been the main or sole contributor to population growth have already started to see their population growth slow. Conversely, large urban areas, which receive most of the international migration to Ontario, are projected to keep growing rapidly. This is especially true in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).

The GTA is one of the fastest-growing metropolitan areas in North America. Its population has more than doubled since the mid-1970s, rising from 3.2 million in 1976 to over 6.6 million in 2015 (most recent regional data available), and has experienced significantly faster growth than the rest of the province over this period. In 2015, 48 per cent of Ontarians lived in the GTA — up from 38 per cent in 1976. Immigration is the main driver of this regional growth.

The GTA remains attractive to newcomers, with more than 80,000 people immigrating to the region every year, and this trend is projected to continue. The GTA’s total population is expected to grow by another 2.7 million people by 2040, to reach almost 9.4 million. The region will experience more than two-thirds of provincial population growth over the period. It is projected that 52.6 per cent of Ontarians will live in the GTA by 2040.

The GTA is also expected to remain the region with the youngest age structure. All major age groups will see faster growth than anywhere else in the province. The GTA is, and will remain, the region with the highest proportion of working-age people in its population and the lowest proportion of seniors in Ontario. The proportion of seniors in the GTA’s population is projected to rise from 14.1 per cent in 2015 to 22.5 per cent in 2040, while the proportion of the core working-age population is projected to decline from 69.7 to 62.2 per cent. Within the GTA, the proportion of seniors will rise faster in the suburbs than within the City of Toronto.

In the rest of the province, the population will keep growing, but at a slower pace. Central and Eastern Ontario are projected to see population growth of more than 20 per cent to 2040. The population of Southwestern Ontario will grow by about 10 per cent, while the North as a whole is projected to maintain a fairly stable population. Throughout the province, large urban areas are generally projected to grow faster, while some remote and rural areas are projected to continue experiencing long-term population declines.

Central Ontario

While the population of Central Ontario is projected to grow by 705,000, or 23.8 per cent, from 2.96 million in 2015 to 3.66 million by 2040, the region’s share of provincial population is expected to decline slightly from 21.4 to 20.6 per cent.

All three major age groups are expected to see growth in Central Ontario to 2040, with seniors growing at the second fastest rate in the province (+97%), after the GTA. The proportion of seniors in the region’s population is projected to grow from 17.8 per cent in 2015 to 28.3 per cent in 2040. The share of the core working-age population in the region will decline from 66.6 per cent in 2015 to 57.3 per cent by 2040.

Eastern Ontario

Eastern Ontario is projected to experience population growth of 417,000, or 23.2 per cent, to 2040, from 1.80 million to 2.22 million. The City of Ottawa is projected to grow from 957,000 in 2015 to 1.32 million in 2040. The rest of the region as a whole is also projected to experience growth, but below the provincial average.

Eastern Ontario is expected to remain the region with the second highest share of the core working-age population in the province in 2040 (58.7 per cent), after the GTA. All major age groups are projected to continue growing in Eastern Ontario. The proportion of seniors in the region’s population will rise from 17.2 per cent in 2015 to 26.8 per cent in 2040.

Southwestern Ontario

The population of Southwestern Ontario is projected to grow by 169,000, or 10.5 per cent, from 1.61 million in 2015 to 1.75 million by 2040. In the Southwest, the number of children is projected to remain stable as a whole to 2040, while the working-age population is projected to experience a small decline (–5.7 per cent). The number of seniors is projected to grow more slowly than the provincial average in the region (+78 per cent); however, the proportion of seniors in the region’s population will remain the second highest in Ontario after the Northeast, rising from 18.1 per cent in 2015 to 29.1 per cent by 2040. The core working-age population accounted for 65.7 per cent of the region’s population in 2015, but will account for only 56.1 per cent by 2040.

Northern Ontario

The population of Northern Ontario is projected to remain relatively stable to 2040, with a slight decrease of 2.1 per cent, from 798,000 in 2015 to 781,000 by 2040. Within the North, the Northeast is projected to see the population edging down by 19,800, or 3.5 per cent, from 559,000 to 539,000. The Northwest is projected to experience slight population growth of 3,300 people, or 1.4 per cent, from 239,000 to 242,000.

In the past, Northern Ontario’s positive natural increase has offset part of the losses it experienced through net migration. However, natural increase in the North as a whole is now negative. As a result, the population is aging faster in the North than in the rest of the province.

The proportion of children in the region’s population is projected to decline from 14.4 to 13.4 per cent and from 16.9 to 15.6 per cent for the Northeast and Northwest, respectively. For the core working-age population, the proportion is projected to decline from 65.7 to 55.3 per cent for the Northeast and from 66.2 to 56.6 per cent for the Northwest. The proportion of seniors in the Northwest population is projected to rise from 16.9 to 27.8 per cent. The Northeast had the highest proportion of seniors in the province in 2015, at 19.9 per cent, and the region will continue to have the oldest age structure to 2040, with its share of seniors reaching 31.3 per cent.

Addressing the Implications of Ontario’s Demographic Outlook

This section discusses how the Ontario government is addressing the far-reaching economic and fiscal implications stemming from Ontario’s demographic outlook to 2040.

Supporting Future Labour Force Growth

As the population ages and the pace of growth in the core working-age group slows, Ontario’s labour force will not increase as rapidly as it has in the past. This could contribute to a slower rate of future real gross domestic product (GDP) growth in the province. Therefore, policies that support future growth in the labour force are important. Encouraging faster productivity growth can help mitigate the impact of slower labour force growth. This is discussed in further detail in Chapter II: Economic Trends and Projections.


Immigration has always contributed significantly to Ontario’s economic growth and it will continue to be an increasingly important source of growth in the labour force. Highly skilled immigrants also support the development of a knowledge-based economy and help foster Ontario’s international trade through commercial and cultural ties with countries of origin.

In 2015, 103,621 immigrants came to Ontario, of which 55 per cent were economic immigrants, the highest proportion among provinces. Ontario is a highly desirable destination for international immigrants because of its open, inclusive and culturally diverse society and its competitive business environment. However, Ontario’s immigration levels are largely determined by federal targets and policies. For instance, the decline in the number of immigrants between 2005 and 2011 (see Chart 1.10) reflects the federal government’s policy of spreading immigrants more evenly across the country, primarily through expansion of the provincial nominee program.

While the allocation for the Ontario Immigrant Nominee Program increased from 1,000 in 2012 to 5,500 in 2016, the 5,500 allocation represents only about five per cent of immigrants who came to Ontario in 2015. To ensure that its workforce has the skills and qualifications needed by employers, Ontario must work with the federal government to ensure that immigrants selected through federal and provincial programs better match the province’s labour market needs and are able to find employment commensurate with their experience. The Ontario Immigration Act, 2015, will assist the Province as it works with the federal government in recruiting, selecting and admitting skilled immigrants.

As immigration becomes even more important in sustaining labour force growth in Ontario, the Province will continue to provide support through policies on immigrant selection, settlement, integration and training. Ontario has put in place a number of programs to help newcomers integrate smoothly into the labour market. Among these are the Newcomer Settlement Program, which assists up to 80,000 immigrants annually by providing information on key services such as housing, language, employment and job training; the Ontario Bridge Training program, which helps skilled newcomers integrate into the labour market by gaining their licence or certificate in their profession or trade; and tuition-free adult language programs to help immigrants improve their English or French language skills.

Older Workers

Many older workers face barriers to staying in the workforce. Retaining older skilled workers, even part time, benefits the economy in a number of ways. It retains leadership talent and allows for mentoring and knowledge transfer to younger generations. It also helps to ensure an adequate supply of skilled tradespersons, especially in occupations with a high proportion of older workers. Policies to reduce workforce barriers include supporting flexible retirement plans such as the gradual reduction of working hours while contributing to pension plans; providing flexible work schedules; offering opportunities for older workers to upgrade skills; supporting work/life balance; and promoting the health and well-being of employees in the workplace.


Initiatives geared towards increasing youth employment and incentives for earlier entry into the labour market can help boost Ontario’s workforce. As more jobs are expected to require postsecondary education and training in the future, it is important that Ontario continue to support increased participation in higher education. With the introduction of the Ontario Student Grant, starting in the 2017–18 school year, Ontario is making postsecondary education even more attainable for all young people — ensuring access for all who qualify, regardless of family income. The Province is also working to expand experiential learning opportunities across the education system, so that postsecondary graduates will be better prepared to enter the workforce. For more information on the government’s investments in postsecondary education, see Chapter II: Economic Trends and Projections.

Although Ontario has a world-class education system, youth unemployment remains high and persistent, and many young people still lack the specific skills needed to participate successfully in today’s job market. The Province is continuing to put programs in place to help with this. For example, the Youth Job Connection program offers marginalized youth intensive supports beyond traditional job search and placement. These include job-readiness training, job matching and paid job placements, and hiring incentives for employers. Ontario’s Youth Job Link program helps students and youth who do not face significant employment barriers but who could benefit from some extra help to plan their careers and transition to the labour market, by giving them access to job search resources and helping them find a job, including summer employment.

Increasing Women’s Labour Force Participation

It is important to remove gender equity barriers so women can participate fully in the labour force and earn fair wages for their work. Women’s labour force participation has increased significantly over the last 30 years for core-aged (25–54) women, from less than 60 per cent in 1976 to more than 80 per cent in 2015. The gap between participation rates for men and women has also narrowed over this time; however, it has remained stable for the last 10 years and stood at 9.7 percentage points in 2015.

For more information on encouraging women’s labour force participation, including the government’s commitment to add 100,000 licensed child care spaces over the next five years, see Chapter III: Employment Trends.

People with Disabilities

Research suggests that people with disabilities represent an untapped labour pool.4 In 2011, the employment rate for people with disabilities in Ontario was 45.5 per cent compared to 72.8 per cent for people without disabilities.5 It is clear that while some people with disabilities have successfully integrated into Ontario’s labour market, many continue to face barriers to employment including ableism and pervasive myths around the abilities of people with disabilities, employer misperceptions and misinformation, procedural barriers in the recruitment process, and fragmented employment and training services that do not always meet the diverse needs of people with disabilities.

As announced in the 2016 Budget, Ontario is taking a whole-of-government approach, working across ministries and with people with disabilities, employers, educators, service providers and other key partners to develop a provincial employment strategy for people with disabilities. Building on the advice of the Partnership Council on Employment Opportunities for People with Disabilities, the strategy will help connect more people with disabilities to job opportunities and more businesses to a talented labour pool. It will be a comprehensive,
made-in-Ontario plan that will offer a better service experience for people through streamlined access to employment and training services that recognize an individual’s diverse needs and goals. Employers will also be engaged as active partners in breaking down barriers for people with disabilities and promoting inclusive workplaces.

Aboriginal People

Compared to the non-Aboriginal population in Ontario, the Aboriginal population is significantly faster growing and younger. Young people, aged 15 to 24, make up 19 per cent of Aboriginal employed people, compared to 13 per cent of non-Aboriginal employed people. Between 2007 and 2016, Aboriginal employment in Ontario grew by 39 per cent compared to six per cent for the non-Aboriginal population. The Province is investing to support Aboriginal learners at Ontario’s nine Aboriginal institutes. The Aboriginal Economic Development Fund is designed to increase access to employment and training opportunities for Aboriginal people.

The government is also supporting the future growth and enhanced quality of the Province’s labour force through continued investments in education, skills and training. For more details on how these investments contribute to Ontario’s productivity and standard of living, see Chapter II: Economic Trends and Projections.

Addressing the Aging Population

With projected population growth of 3.8 million by 2040 and a near-doubling in the number of seniors in the province, the government’s capacity for delivering the appropriate services and programs will come under increased pressure.

Health Policies to Support the Aging Population

The government will continue to make progress with its Patients First: Action Plan by putting patients first, providing faster access to care and investing in Ontario’s health care system for the long term. Many seniors prefer to receive care at or close to home. To assist with this, the Province will continue to invest in high-quality home and community care, which is often less costly than care provided in hospitals or long-term care homes and can be just as effective.

Since 2003, Ontario has nearly doubled long-term care home funding to about $4 billion per year, and also provided funding to encourage long-term care home operators to accelerate the redevelopment of more than 30,000 long-term care home beds by 2025.

The Province has introduced a number of programs to modernize and improve the delivery of quality care to seniors. For example, in 2016, a province-wide consultation was launched to facilitate a new dementia strategy to improve access to quality care for people living with dementia and boost support for their caregivers.

The Province has also increased access to the Ontario Drug Benefit program for more low-income seniors, who can now apply for reduced prescription fees. In addition to making the influenza vaccine available for everyone, Ontario has expanded its immunization program to offer the shingles vaccine free of charge for all seniors aged 65 to 70, which will contribute to reducing emergency department visits and hospitalizations.

To help keep seniors in their communities and aging actively, Ontario is continuing to invest in programming such as the Seniors Community Grant Program, the Age-Friendly Community Planning Grant Program and the Elderly Persons Centres network.

Supporting Seniors’ Incomes in an Aging Population

As the population ages, it will be important to ensure that programs are in place to encourage retirement saving and support seniors’ incomes. This will help reduce pressure on future workers to support seniors’ incomes over the longer term.

Ontarians and Canadians can take pride in their retirement income security system. Those reaching age 65 can become eligible for income support programs such as the federal Old Age Security and Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) programs, and Ontario’s Guaranteed Annual Income System. These programs help most seniors, especially those without adequate savings, avoid poverty. Other income available from the Canada Pension Plan (CPP), workplace pension plans and personal savings enables most of today’s seniors to live with dignity in retirement.

However, current trends, including fewer workers having access to workplace pension plans and increasing longevity, have made it more difficult for workers to save enough for a comfortable retirement.

To help increase retirement savings, Ontario is undertaking a multi-faceted strategy to improve retirement security (see Chapter III: Employment Trends). The progress made on this strategy includes achieving a historic agreement among federal, provincial and territorial governments to enhance the CPP, in which Ontario played a central role.

The CPP has remained largely unchanged for decades. In 2013, when the federal government of the day unilaterally shut down national discussions on a CPP enhancement, Ontario stepped up to address the retirement savings challenge by developing the Ontario Retirement Pension Plan (ORPP). However, enhancing the CPP was always the Province’s preferred approach. Ontario’s work in pressing for an improvement to the CPP and in moving forward with the ORPP ensured that a CPP enhancement remained on the national agenda. In fall 2015, the new federal government restarted national discussions, and in June 2016, a national agreement to enhance the CPP was reached. Ontario’s leadership and commitment in addressing the retirement savings challenge were key to facilitating the agreement in less than a year.

The CPP enhancement will significantly improve the retirement security of many of today’s workers by providing them with a meaningful, lifelong increase in future retirement income that will also help to lessen the cost of population aging on future workers.

Although seniors’ poverty has been reduced significantly over the last three decades, there continue to be some seniors, particularly those who are single, who experience poverty. To help support today’s seniors living in poverty, the federal government recently increased GIS benefits to improve the incomes of the lowest-income single seniors.

Responding to Regional Conditions

Regional differences in the pace of population growth and aging will contribute to economic differences across Ontario’s regions. Regional economic growth will also be affected by other factors, including the presence of natural resources and other natural endowments, the mixture of business and industry, and the availability of required skills.

Ontario’s five regions vary in size, geography, economic structure and economic performance. The GTA accounts for almost 50 per cent of provincial GDP and employment. In contrast, Northern Ontario accounts for about 90 per cent of Ontario’s land mass but about five per cent of its population, employment and economic activity. Though the economies of Central, Eastern and Southwestern Ontario are much more diversified than Northern Ontario’s, they are less diversified and much smaller than the GTA’s.

Provincial Growth Planning

The Province is committed to improving the economic conditions of all of Ontario’s regions. The Provincial Policy Statement, 2014, issued under the Planning Act, provides policy direction on land use planning development and sets the policy foundation for regulating the development and use of land across Ontario.

The Places to Grow Act, 2005, allows for the identification and designation of growth plan areas across the province and the development of provincial growth plans. This enables decisions about growth to be made in ways that sustain a robust economy, build strong communities, and promote a healthy environment and a culture of conservation. To date, two growth plans have been released ­— the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe in 2006 and the Growth Plan for Northern Ontario in 2011, which have helped guide the Province’s investments and actions in these regions.

Within the Greater Golden Horseshoe region, four provincial land use plans — the Growth Plan for the Greater Golden Horseshoe, the Greenbelt Plan, the Oak Ridges Moraine Conservation Plan and the Niagara Escarpment Plan — work together to manage growth, build complete communities, curb sprawl and protect the natural environment in this region.

In 2016, the Province released proposed updates to the four plans for public input and feedback. The proposed changes, if approved, would result in stronger direction to plan for livable, transit-supportive communities that can support continued economic growth. The proposed plans are expected to be finalized in 2017.

Regional Economic Development

Local businesses play an important role in sustaining regions and communities by creating employment opportunities for Ontarians. The government continues to support businesses and communities across Ontario through its regional development funds, including the:

  • Southwestern Ontario Development Fund (SWODF);
  • Eastern Ontario Development Fund (EODF);
  • Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation (NOHFC); and
  • Aboriginal Economic Development Fund (AEDF).

To build competitive regions for tomorrow’s economy, Ontario is committed to developing regional economic development plans in 2017. These plans would include strategies for building on the unique assets of each region and aim to address their economic challenges.

Investing in Infrastructure

Ontario’s projected population growth will result in significant demand for all types of infrastructure, from transportation, health care and education, to water management and the electricity system. For instance, an aging population and a growing number of seniors living on their own will likely have implications for housing needs, public transit and the delivery of community services. Elements of support may include community hubs, which bring together a range of public services under one roof, as well as new technologies that allow people to better access and share information across communities, businesses and institutions.

The Province is taking steps to strengthen the health care system to give Ontarians faster access to the right care, with plans to invest $12 billion over the next 10 years in health care infrastructure to help patients receive high‐quality care. Students are also benefiting from modern facilities across the province that provide an enhanced learning experience and will support student achievement and well‐being for generations to come. Over the next 10 years, the Province plans to provide $12 billion in capital grants to the education sector, in response to local needs, while creating contemporary learning environments for students.

Ontario’s infrastructure investments take into account the projected uneven population and economic growth across Ontario’s regions. To support jobs and spur economic growth in less populated regions, the Province and federal government are each providing $272 million over 10 years for infrastructure projects in municipalities with populations of fewer than 100,000 people, through the Small Communities Fund (SCF). For instance, under the SCF, the Province and federal government are funding the delivery of ultra-high-speed internet in southwestern Ontario. Through the Southwestern Integrated Fibre Technology (SWIFT) network initiative, more than 300 communities with a total population of 3.5 million will receive fibre-optic coverage. The Province also provides infrastructure funding through the Ontario Community Infrastructure Fund (OCIF), which helps small and northern municipalities address critical road, bridge, and water and wastewater projects. As announced in 2016, the OCIF is increasing from $100 million per year to $300 million per year by 2018–19.

For more information on infrastructure investments, see Chapter II: Economic Trends and Projections, Infrastructure Investment and Chapter IV: Long-Term Fiscal Prospects, Future Cost of Infrastructure Investment.

TABLE 1.2 Components of Demographic Growth in Ontario, 2011–40
In Thousands
Component Historical
Start Population 13,264 13,983 14,788 15,614 16,428 17,205
Births 720 777 819 830 826 668
Deaths 479 501 547 598 661 581
Immigration 518 581 606 638 670 558
Emigration 88 85 90 93 96 78
Net Change in Non-Permanent Residents 89 42 37 38 38 30
Net Interprovincial Migration  (42) 15 0 0 0 0
End Population 13,983 14,788 15,614 16,428 17,205 17,802
Sources: Statistics Canada for 2006–16 and Ontario Ministry of Finance projections.
TABLE 1.3 Population of Ontario Regions, 2015–40
In Thousands
Region Historical
Greater Toronto Area 6,626 7,289 7,843 8,397 8,938 9,361
Central 2,958 3,132 3,279 3,424 3,560 3,662
East 1,800 1,911 2,000 2,085 2,161 2,218
Southwest 1,611 1,658 1,696 1,730 1,759 1,780
Northeast 559 556 553 549 544 539
Northwest 239 242 243 244 243 242
Ontario 13,797 14,788 15,614 16,428 17,205 17,802
Notes: 2015 revised estimate for Ontario. Sum of regions may not add to total.
Sources: Statistics Canada for 2015 and Ontario Ministry of Finance projections.
TABLE 1.4 Age Distribution of Ontario’s Population, 2016–40
Per Cent of Total (%)
Age Group Historical
0–14 15.9 15.8 15.7 15.7 15.3 15.0
0–4 5.2 5.3 5.3 5.1 4.9 4.8
5–14 10.6 10.4 10.4 10.6 10.4 10.2
15–64 67.8 65.6 63.0 60.7 59.9 59.8
15–24 13.1 11.7 11.2 11.1 11.2 11.5
25–44 26.7 27.0 26.7 25.8 24.8 24.1
45–64 28.0 26.8 25.1 23.8 23.9 24.3
65+ 16.4 18.7 21.3 23.6 24.7 25.2
65–74 9.2 10.5 11.5 12.1 11.4 10.4
75–84 5.0 5.6 6.9 8.1 9.0 9.7
85+ 2.2 2.5 2.8 3.4 4.3 5.1
Sources: Statistics Canada for 2016 and Ontario Ministry of Finance projections.


1 In this report, the Greater Toronto Area includes the City of Toronto and the regional municipalities of Halton, Peel, York and Durham.

2 See the Ontario Ministry of Finance’s website at www.fin.gov.on.ca/en/economy/demographics/projections.

3 The target was increased from 279,200 in 2015 to 300,000 in 2016 and 2017.

4 Path to 2025: Ontario’s Accessibility Action Plan.

5 Statistics Canada, Canadian Survey on Disability, 2012.

Chart Descriptions

Chart 1.1: Growth Rate of Ontario’s Population, 1971–2040

This bar chart shows the past and projected annual growth rate of Ontario’s population from 1971 to 2040. Past population growth rates were higher than what is projected. Over the 1971–2016 period, the average annual population growth rate was 1.3 per cent. This is higher than the average annual population growth rate of 1.0 per cent projected from 2016 to 2040.

Return to Chart 1.1

Chart 1.2: Contribution of Natural Increase and Net Migration to Ontario’s Population Growth, 1971–2040

This area chart shows the annual contribution of natural increase and net migration to total population growth in Ontario from 1971 to 2016, and projections to 2040. Ontario’s population used to grow mostly from natural increase in the 1970s. However, natural increase accounted for only 34 per cent of total population growth in the past five years, and its share is projected to fall to 13 per cent by 2040.

Return to Chart 1.2

Chart 1.3: Net Interprovincial Migration to Ontario, 1971–2016

This bar chart shows the annual net interprovincial migration to Ontario from 1971 to 2016. Numerous years of gains are usually followed by numerous years of losses, following the business cycle in Ontario. From 1996 to 2003, Ontario gained a total of 75,000 interprovincial migrants. That was followed by 12 years with continuing net losses totalling 142,000 people. The net interprovincial migration for Ontario turned positive again in the past year.

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Chart 1.4: Baby Boomers Passing through the Ontario Age Structure, 1965–2035

This chart shows age pyramids of Ontario’s population by age group, highlighting the baby boom generation. In 1965, baby boomers were in school. In 1985, they were young adults. In 2005, they were older workers. In 2015, they were young retirees and, by 2035, they will be older seniors.

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Chart 1.5: Age Distribution of Ontario’s Population, 1980–2040

This chart shows the age distribution of Ontario’s population for broad age groups in 1980, 2000, 2020 and 2040. In 1980, 22.1 per cent of Ontarians were children aged 0–14, 68.2 per cent were of working age (15–64), and 9.7 per cent were seniors (65+). In 2020, children will account for 15.8 per cent of Ontario’s total population, the working-age group will represent 66.0 per cent of the total, and seniors, 18.2 per cent. By 2040, 15.0 per cent of Ontarians will be children aged 0–14, 59.8 per cent will be of working age, and 25.2 per cent will be seniors.

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Chart 1.6: Share of Population Aged 65 and Over, Ontario and Selected Countries, 2015

This chart shows the 2015 share of population aged 65+ in selected countries. The highest proportion of seniors displayed is for Japan at 26.3 per cent and Italy at 22.4 per cent. The lowest shares shown are for Mexico at 6.5 per cent and Brazil at 7.8 per cent. Ontario was at 16.0 per cent, while Canada was at 16.1 per cent.

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Chart 1.7: Growth Rate of the Core Working-Age Population in Ontario, 1971–2040

This bar chart shows the annual growth rate of the core working-age population in Ontario (ages 15–64) from 1971 to 2040. It shows how dramatically lower future growth rates are projected to be. The average annual growth rate of Ontario’s core working-age population was 1.4 per cent over the 1971–2016 period. It is projected to average only 0.5 per cent from 2016 to 2040.

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Chart 1.8: Population of the Greater Toronto Area, 1976–2040

This chart shows the total population of the Greater Toronto Area from 1976 to 2040. The GTA had a population of 3.2 million in 1976, which grew to 6.6 million by 2015. It is projected to reach 9.4 million by 2040.

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Chart 1.9: Population of Ontario Regions, 2015 and 2040

This chart shows the map of Ontario regions and their actual population in 2015, as well as the projected population in 2040. The total population is projected to increase from 6.6 million in 2015 to 9.4 million in 2040 for the Greater Toronto Area, from 3.0 million to 3.7 million for Central, from 1.8 million to 2.2 million for the East, and from 1.6 million to 1.8 million for the Southwest. During the same period, the population of the Northwest is projected to be stable at 0.2 million, while the population of the Northeast is projected to slightly decline from 0.6 million to 0.5 million.

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Chart 1.10: Annual Immigration to Ontario, 1971–2016

This bar chart shows the annual immigration level to Ontario from 1971 to 2016. Over this period, annual immigration flows increased from 62,258 in 1971–72 to 119,647 in 2015–16, fluctuating between a low of 40,252 in 1983–84 and a high of 152,823 in 2001–02.

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Chart 1.11: Labour Force Participation Rate by Gender, Ages 25–54, 1976–2015, Ontario

This line chart shows participation rates for 25- to 54-year-old males and females from 1976 to 2015. Rates for males decreased from 96.1 to 90.4 and rates for females increased from 57.4 to 80.7 during the reference period.

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Chart 1.12: Employment Levels in Ontario’s Regions, 1987 and 2016

This chart shows a map of Ontario divided into five regions — Northern, East, Central, Southwest and the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), and the level of employment in 1987 compared with the level of employment in 2016 for each region.

The chart shows that the GTA is the largest region by employment, followed by Central, East, Southwest and Northern Ontario. It also shows that between 1987 and 2016, employment increased in each region. In the GTA, employment increased from about 2,154,000 in 1987 to 3,337,000 in 2016. In Central, employment increased from about 1,094,000 in 1987 to 1,598,000 in 2016. In the East, employment increased from about 658,000 in 1987 to 905,000 in 2016. In the Southwest, employment increased from about 647,000 in 1987 to 776,000 in 2016, and in Northern, increased from about 343,000 in 1987 to 348,000 in 2016.

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