New Brunswick at the Dawn of a New Century
III. WHAT IS DEMOGRAPHY AND WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?
Demography is the branch of social sciences concerned with the study
of human populations, their structure and change (through births, deaths,
and migration), and their relationship with the natural environment and
with social and economic change. Demographic indicators could include population
size, population growth rate, crude birth rate, crude death rate, total
fertility rate, life expectancy and infant mortality . As well, it would
include estimated and projected gender and age distributions according to
medium, high, low and constant fertility variants. In short, demographic
changes affect all areas of human activity: economic, social, cultural and
|To a large extent, the realities of population size and
growth, and of population characteristics and distribution, govern, or at
least set some broad outer limits upon, what is possible for the economy
and for governments and the corporate world within the economy.|
Thomas Symons, Chair, British-North American
Committee Working Group on Demographics
Those who follow this field of social science believe demographics can play
a crucial role in understanding past trends and in preparing for future
developments and policies. Furthermore, they believe that understanding
demographic developments can provide important explanations of observed
economic and social trends. Consequently, demography becomes an important
ingredient in public policy analysis and development.
Demographically, New Brunswick's population profile will be much different
in the next century. Life expectancy is increasing, and fertility continues
to be low. Furthermore, the New Brunswick population, like most North American
societies, is aging and will likely begin to decline early in the next century.
It is for this reason then, that New Brunswick is at a crossroads.
|Aging populations are likely to put significant pressure
on public spending programs, especially health care and pensions.|
Organization for Economic Co-operation and
New Brunswick's changing population dynamics has significant long-term implications
for economic and social policy, and New Brunswickers will only make wise
choices about their future if the effects of demographic change are better
Many economists and demographers believe the present slow rate of population
growth in New Brunswick could have significant consequences. This, coupled
with the anticipated changes in our fiscal arrangements with the Federal
Government, and the deep restructuring of our global economy, will likely
provoke economic and social challenges of some magnitude.
|Demographic trends are essentially long-term. You can
ignore them this year, you can ignore them next year. But if you ignore
them over time, they'll get you in the end.|
Dr. David Foot, University of Toronto
Public policy makers in New Brunswick then, are under great pressure to
understand the dynamics of economic and demographic change. All of these
factors pose a challenge of great importance and consequence, thus demography,
and demographic analysis is an obvious consideration if we are to achieve
and maintain overall priorities. The most fundamental tenet of demographics
is that society, to a large degree, creates demographic influences and trends
with its present decisions, discoveries, policies, actions or inactions.
With proper planning, and careful utilization of resources, New Brunswick's
future population can be as dynamic and prosperous as it is today.