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Welfare in Canada update now available

Today, Maytree is releasing the latest Welfare in Canada report showing the total income households on social assistance would have received in 2019 (i.e., their income from social assistance alongside tax credits and child benefits).

The report looks at how welfare incomes varied across every province and territory for four example households in 2019:

  1. Single person considered employable;
  2. Single person with a disability;
  3. Single parent with one child age two; and
  4. Couple with two children ages 10 and 15.

Using data provided by provincial and territorial government officials, the report describes the components of welfare incomes, how they have changed from previous years, and how they compared to low-income thresholds.

Note: This report shows the total income households on social assistance would have received in the 2019 tax year. It does not reflect income support measures introduced in 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Key findings for the provinces:

  • In 2019, the highest total welfare income of a single person considered employable was in Newfoundland and Labrador at $11,386, followed by Prince Edward Island (PEI) at $11,245. In all other provinces, incomes clustered at a lower level of around $7,100 to $9,800.
  • In 2019, welfare incomes rose by more than the cost of living in 19 of the 40 scenarios across the provinces. This means that welfare incomes did not keep up with inflation for just over half of the households considered.
  • In Alberta, British Columbia, PEI, and Quebec, policy changes triggered an above-inflation increase in welfare incomes for all four example household types. In Manitoba, they increased for three of the scenario households, but declined for single persons considered employable.
  • In New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Ontario, and Saskatchewan, there were no changes to social assistance payments between 2018 and 2019. Households in these provinces only saw small shifts in their welfare incomes through child benefits and tax credit programs, which automatically increased in line with inflation.
  • Even where welfare incomes were highest, they fell short of the poverty threshold. The closest was in Quebec where the welfare income of a couple with two children living in Montreal reached 92 per cent of the poverty threshold.
  • 37 of the 40 scenario households receiving social assistance in the provinces were living in deep poverty (defined as having a disposable income less than 75 per cent of the MBM). In Alberta and Saskatchewan, there were two additional disability-specific programs; both provided incomes that were below the poverty threshold for single person households.
  • Welfare incomes for single persons considered employable were particularly low. Even the highest level amounted to just 51 per cent of the poverty threshold (in Charlottetown, PEI). Total welfare incomes in all other jurisdictions were much lower. The lowest was 32 per cent in Nova Scotia, for single persons living in Halifax.


Key findings for the territories:

  • The welfare incomes in Yukon and the Northwest Territories (NWT) were generally higher than in the provinces, reflecting the higher cost of living in the territories. Conversely, welfare incomes in Nunavut were lower than in the provinces, reflecting the high proportion of households on social assistance living in subsidized housing whose living costs are reduced through housing subsidies.
  • In Nunavut, policy changes triggered an above-inflation increase in 2019 welfare incomes for all four example household types. In NWT, a specific policy change triggered a rise in the welfare income for single persons with a disability. Welfare incomes for the three other households in NWT and all four households in Yukon generally kept pace with the cost of living due to periodic annual increases in welfare amounts that is common practice in the territories.

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This resource was previously compiled by the Caledon Institute of Social Policy. To help people find the new home of Welfare in Canada, please share this email with anyone who would find it useful.

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