Regional Population Projection for Labrador and the Northern Peninsula 2016-2036

Lay Summary 

In 2015, Newfoundland and Labrador had the most rapidly aging population in the country – which when combined with high rates of youth out-migration, declining birth rates, and an increasing number of people moving from rural parts of the province to more urban centres, means that the province is facing an unprecedented population challenge. Without intervention, this trend will have a drastic impact on the economy, governance, and overall quality of life for the people of the province. Planning for this change and developing strategies to adjust and adapt to the change is paramount.


This report focuses specifically on Labrador. Funded by the International Grenfell Association (IGA), it provides a set of population projections for the IGA regions of Labrador and the Northern Peninsula of Newfoundland and Labrador West for the period 2016-2036. These projections provide a basis for further research into the implications of demographic change in this region. Results from three projection models are presented. These models are: The Natural Survival Model (NS), the Historical (Cyclic) Survival Model (HS), and the Replacement Survival Model (RS).


The NS, HS and RS models help provide insight to how population will change in terms of both the total number of people living in a region as well as the resulting age structure. The NS model indicates the capacity of a region to grow by natural replacement by accounting for regional fertility and death rates, though does not consider migration. This model also identifies regions whose age structure combined with its fertility and death rates can or cannot maintain their populations without in-migration. The HS model results provide insight into the age structure of populations if past migration trends continue into the future. For some regions in Labrador this may be likely, given that over multiple census periods there has been very little, if any, in-migration and significant outmigration of younger cohorts without replacement. The result, a decreasing and rapidly aging population, is particularly significant in those regions that will decline even where a significant labour force replacement factor is built in as indicated in the results from the RS model.


Workforce replacement requires that those not previously in the workforce join it, that others remain in the region rather than leave and/or there is in-migration. Given the economic base of many of Labrador’s regions, the required replacement success levels necessary to maintain the workforce population, as forecast in the RS model scenarios, may be difficult to achieve. The overall conclusion is that the aging trend in Labrador suggests that there are underlying fertility and migration issues that will prevent maintaining or growing the base population in the long term. Regional highlights from the report include:


Labrador: For Labrador as a whole the NS model indicates that births would exceed deaths over the projection period and, excluding migration, there is an internal propensity for growth. However, when migration trends are factored in, the overall population is projected to decline by 8% between 2016 and 2036. To maintain the current workforce population to 2036 at least 50% of that workforce would need to be replaced, primarily through reduced out-migration or higher rates of in-migration.


However, within Labrador there are significant differences between regions and so this overall picture may be misleading, hence the need to consider individual regions within Labrador.


Labrador North Coast: The large number of people in the younger age cohorts indicates a natural propensity to maintain the population. However, when past migration trends are factored in, the population is projected to decrease slightly between 2016 and 2036 under a “Medium Scenario” case. To ensure that the workforce population is maintained, replacement success, through population retention and/or in-migration, would need to be in the order of 50%.


Central Labrador: The NS model shows a population increase over the projection period. When migration trends are included the population would increase slightly to 2031 and then decline to 2019 levels by 2036. Theoretically the workforce in this region could be maintained without any replacement strategy.


Labrador South Coast: The NS model predicts a population decline of 4% between 2016 and 2036. When past migration trends are included the population would decrease by 33% by 2036 under the Medium Scenario case. This is a region with a rapidly aging population. In 2011 the average age was 41, and by 2036 it is projected to be 55. To maintain the workforce at current levels a 50% replacement success is required, which would have to occur primarily through in-migration.


The full report can be found here.

The Leslie Harris Centre of Regional Policy and Development
International Grenfell Association
Labrador City
Happy Valley-Goose Bay
St. Anthony
St. John's
Newfoundland and Labrador
Newfoundland Studies
Regional Development
Industry Sectors 
Other Information Services
Start date 
1 Jul 2016