Quebec leads the country in common-law couples, solo living


The latest batch of results from the 2021 census provides a picture of the makeup of Canadian households.

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Quebec has the highest share of people living alone in Canada and the greatest number of common-law couples, new results from the 2021 census show.

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And though marriage remains the main type of union across the country, the number of common-law couples continues to rise — increasing by 447 per cent since 1981.

“Canada is first among G7 countries in terms of the prevalence of common-law couples in 2021,” Laurent Martel, director for the centre of demography at Statistics Canada, said during a news conference Wednesday.

“And this is especially because of the situation in Quebec.”

Released by Statistics Canada on Wednesday, the latest batch of results from the 2021 census gives details on the makeup of Canadian households and families, as well as their financial situations in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the data, there are now more people living on their own than ever before in Canada, and Quebec remains the province with the greatest share of them, at 19 per cent. In comparison, that number is 12 per cent in Ontario and 13 per cent in Alberta.

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The federal agency said there are several factors contributing to the situation in Quebec, such as “lower shelter costs, tax rebates for solo-dwellers in certain circumstances, as well as various socio-cultural factors, including greater instability of unions.”

In general, the data shows people are more likely to be living alone when residing in the downtown core of large urban centres. The results showed this to be true in Quebec as well.

As examples, the agency says nearly half of adults live by themselves in downtown Trois-Rivières and Saguenay, and similarly high levels were found in Drummondville, Quebec City and Sherbrooke.

At the same time, across the country, people living with roommates now represent the fastest-growing household type, with the total having jumped by 54 per cent since 2001.

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Asked Wednesday whether this points to Canadians trying to find solutions amid rising housing costs, Martel said it’s not the first census that shows more and more people are opting to have roommates.

But he agreed part of the reason is likely strategic.

“Especially since we see that roommate households are growing faster in the larger urban centres, we can certainly think that it’s a strategy to cope with housing affordability and also the cost of living,” he said.

Wednesday’s release also gives a picture of average household incomes across the country and how they were affected by the early part of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The data shows that two-thirds of Canadian adults received income from some form of pandemic relief program, like the Canada Emergency Response Benefit.

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The median amount people received through the programs in 2020 was $8,000, the agency stated.

More broadly, in Quebec, the median household after-tax income was $63,200 in 2020, up 12 per cent from 2015. Meanwhile, the prevalence of low-income households in the province was 11.9 per cent.

In terms of family makeup, as of 2021, 46 per cent of couples in Quebec had children, nearly 43 per cent were common-law couples, and 15 per cent of two-parent families were stepfamilies.

Transgender or nonbinary couples were found to be most prevalent in urban centres like Victoria, Halifax and Fredericton, the agency said, but less prevalent in Quebec.

The province, however, recorded the highest share of same-gender couples in Canada, at 1.4 per cent. That number rises to roughly six per cent in both Quebec City and Montreal.

Wednesday’s release by Statistics Canada was the third of seven expected from the 2021 census. Future releases will tackle linguistic diversity, immigration and education, among other topics.

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