Social Assistance Summaries

Quebec

Last updated: July 2022

The Social Assistance Summaries series tracks the number of recipients of social assistance (welfare payments) in each province and territory.

For the total incomes available to those relying on social assistance, visit the Welfare in Canada report.

Program details

Social assistance is the income program of last resort. It is intended for those who have exhausted all other means of financial support. Every province and territory has its own social assistance program(s), and no two are the same.

In Quebec, the social assistance program is known as Last Resort Financial Assistance, which includes the Aim for Employment (objectif emploi), the Social Assistance program (aide sociale), and the Social Solidarity program (solidarité sociale).

Aim for Employment (objectif emploi)

The Aim for Employment program was introduced in April 2018, and it aims to help recipients improve their employability. It is a 12-month program that is mandatory for new social assistance recipients (with some exceptions). In addition to the basic benefit, recipients receive a participation allowance for carrying out the activities in their labour market entry plan.

Social Assistance Program (aide sociale)

The Social Assistance program provides basic benefits to adults only. Between September 1997 and 2005, children’s basic benefits were delivered through the Quebec Family Allowance, but since 2005 children’s basic benefits have been available through the Child Assistance Measure.

Social Solidarity Program (solidarité sociale)

The Social Solidarity program is for those with severely limited capacity for employment. To obtain a social solidarity allowance, a medical report must be produced confirming that the applicant’s physical or psychological condition is significantly impaired and will be so permanently or for an indeterminate time. Such conditions, in combination with their socio-occupational profile (little schooling, no work experience) qualify the applicant as having a severely limited capacity for employment. In the case of a family composed of two adults, only one adult must prove his or her severely limited capacity for employment in order for the family to be eligible for the program.

Statistics

How many people claim social assistance?

On average, there were almost 253,000 cases (families and single adults) in Quebec’s social assistance programs during 2020-21. A very small proportion (2 per cent) were part of the Aim for Employment Program, over half (51 per cent) received support through the Social Assistance Program, and the remainder (47 per cent) received support through the Social Solidarity Program.

Aim for Employment Program (objectif emploi) and Social Assistance Program (aide sociale)

The number of Social Assistance Program cases in Quebec decreased by just under 16,400, or about 11 per cent, to reach just over 129,000 in 2020-21. Overall, the number of cases and beneficiaries has fallen most years since the mid-1990s, but the most recent decreases have been somewhat counter-balanced by increases in cases and beneficiaries in the Aim for Employment Program, which was introduced in April 2018. With this program in place, most individuals and families seeking income assistance in Quebec receive support through the Aim for Employment Program for 12 months. Those still in need of income support at the end of this period may then transition to the Social Assistance Program or Social Solidarity Program. After two years of increases, the number of Aim for Employment Program cases fell in 2020-21 to just under 4,600, a decrease of around 26 per cent.

On average, there were over 194,000 beneficiaries (individual claimants, their partners, and dependent children) of Quebec’s Social Assistance Program in 2020-21, around 26,700 (12 per cent) fewer than the year before. The number of Aim for Employment Program beneficiaries also fell in 2020-21 to reach about 7,000, a decrease of just under 2,400 (around 25 per cent).

Figure 1QC – Yearly cases and beneficiaries of the Aim for Employment Program (objectif emploi) and the Social Assistance Program (aide sociale) in Quebec, 1997 to 2021



Social Solidarity Program (solidarité sociale)

In 2020-21, there was an average of more than 119,000 Social Solidarity Program cases, a decrease of about 4,300, and over 132,000 beneficiaries, a decrease of about 5,500. This marks the lowest number of cases since 1999-2000, and the lowest number of beneficiaries in the time series. Both numbers had remained relatively stable over the last decade, having gradually risen in the decade before that.

Figure 2QC – Yearly cases and beneficiaries of the Social Solidarity Program (solidarité sociale) in Quebec, 1997 to 2021


What proportion of the population receives social assistance?

In 2020-21, on average, 4.8 per cent of people in Quebec under 65 received the Aim for Employment Program, the Social Assistance Program, or the Social Solidarity Program, which is 1 in 21.

The proportion of recipients receiving social assistance has followed a similar pattern as the total number of recipients.

The proportion of people under 65 receiving the Social Assistance Program has decreased consistently since 1997-98, reaching a low of 2.8 per cent in 2020-21. The proportion of Social Solidarity Program beneficiaries has remained stable at slightly above 2 per cent since 1997-98. In 2020-21, it reached it reached its lowest point at 1.9 per cent.

Similarly, the proportion of Aim for Employment Program recipients has remained consistent at 0.1 per cent since its introduction in 2018-19.

Note: The total population under 65 is estimated on July 1 of a given year, whereas social assistance beneficiary data is a fiscal year average (April to March).

Figure 3QC – Yearly beneficiaries of social assistance as a proportion of the under 65 population of Quebec, 1997 to 2021

Who is receiving social assistance?

In 2020-21, unattached singles comprised the majority of social assistance cases among households for each program, with over 79 per cent for the Aim for Employment Program, over 74 per cent for the Social Assistance Program, and over 92 per cent for the Social Solidarity Program.

Unattached singles were also the majority of beneficiaries, except for the Social Assistance Program, in which they had the highest proportion (49 per cent).

Couples with children had the second largest number of cases and beneficiaries of the Aim for Employment Program. Single parents had the second largest number of cases and beneficiaries of the Social Assistance Program. Couples without children had the second largest number of cases and beneficiaries of the Social Solidarity Program.

In 2020-21, the majority of beneficiaries of each program were male, with around 54 per cent for the Aim for Employment Program, around 54 per cent for the Social Assistance Program, and almost 53 per cent for the Social Solidarity Program.

Aim for Employment Program (objectif emploi)

Figure 4QC – Cases and beneficiaries of the Aim for Employment Program (objectif emploi) by household in Quebec, 2020-21

Figure 5QC – Beneficiaries of the Aim for Employment Program (objectif emploi) by sex in Quebec, 2020-21


Social Assistance Program (aide sociale)

Figure 6QC – Cases and beneficiaries of the Social Assistance Program (aide sociale) by household in Quebec, 2020-21

Figure 7QC – Beneficiaries of the Social Assistance Program (aide sociale) by sex in Quebec, 2020-21


Social Solidarity Program (solidarité sociale)

Figure 8QC – Cases and beneficiaries of the Social Solidarity Program (solidarité sociale) by household in Quebec, 2020-21

Figure 9QC – Beneficiaries of the Social Solidarity Program (solidarité sociale) by sex in Quebec, 2020-21

Data

Figure 10QC - Yearly social assistance data for Quebec, 1997 to 2021


Figure 11QC – Social assistance data by household for Quebec, 2020-21

Figure 12QC – Social assistance data by sex for Quebec, 2020-21

Data notes

  • The data reflects the average number of cases and beneficiaries over the fiscal year (April 1 to March 31).
  • Household data excludes a fifth category, “partner of a student.” In 2020-21, 243 cases and beneficiaries were partners of students, 38 in the Aim for Employment Program, 184 in the Social Assistance Program, and 22 in the Social Solidarity Program.
  • The sex of some child beneficiaries is unknown. In 2020-21, the sex of one Social Assistance Program beneficiary was unknown.
  • The numbers do not include First Nations living on reserves.
  • Click here for more information about how the data is gathered

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