"We can't allow things that are inaccurate to stand." — The Word of Our Dan, February 19, 2008.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Save the males?

This chart shows the changing sex ratio of the population as a whole, of all age cohorts, at the provincial and national level.

[Data source: Statistics Canada table 051-0001]

The vertical scale shows the proportion of males to females, with 1 being parity. For example, in 1971, at the far left of the chart, there were just over 1.04 males for every female in Newfoundland and Labrador. The Canadian population as a whole was also "male-shifted", but by a much smaller amount.

Over the ensuing decades, the population has become female-shifted, with the demographic sex balance crossing the parity line nationally in 1976 and provincially about twenty years later. However, the female-shifting of the population of Canada reversed in the mid-1990s, and the sex ratio is headed back towards parity, at least for now, at the national level.

Provincially, the female-shift continues almost unabated. The 2009 estimate shows that there are about 96 men and boys for every 100 women and girls, almost the mirror image of the demographic picture from 40 years ago.

The question of declining male birth rates – a contributing factor to the changing sex ratio of the overall population – has received some scholarly attention.

But the uneven changes in the sex ratios for the population as a whole, and by geography, doesn’t seem to have gotten as much attention.

Perhaps it should. Think of the noticeable trend in local governments, service clubs, and other social institutions where women seem increasingly to be the core of the organization, the volunteer base, the local council. Societal expectations are changing, but so is the very makeup of the population.

There was once a slogan used as a rallying cry to get more women involved in politics. “The 52 percent solution” referred to the global demographic sex ratio. Historically, the number of live births has tended to be about 52 boys to 48 girls. By adulthood, the ratio has reversed itself, partly due to hereditary factors, partly due to the tendency of boys and young men to die in remarkably stupid ways.

But what happens – to a labour force, a political culture, an economy – as the 52 percent solution becomes 53, 54, 55? What’s driving the continuing shift at the provincial level – is it biological, differential rates of in- and out-migration, or some combination? What trades and professions will have to work harder to attract women – or, for that matter, attract men? What traditional gender barriers are going to come down, and which will come down of their own accord, or which will have to be demolished deliberately? What businesses will have to change their marketing and retail strategies in response to changing demographics, changing economics, and the interplay of the two?

Lots of big and interesting questions, from just two lines on a graph.