Welfare in Canada

Last updated: November 2019

This resource is not intended to help individuals identify what government transfers they could be entitled to. Individuals living in Manitoba seeking financial assistance should visit this page.


Components of welfare incomes

Households that qualify for basic social assistance payments also qualify for other financial support including:

  • GST/HST credit
  • Provincial/territorial tax credits or benefits
  • Federal and provincial/territorial child benefits (for households with children)
  • Recurring additional social assistance payments (for example, an annual back-to-school allowance)

Together, these combine with basic social assistance payments to form the total welfare income of a household. Households may receive less if they have income from other sources, while some households may receive more if they have special health- or disability-related needs.

The table below shows the value and components of welfare incomes for four household types living in Winnipeg in 2018.

 Single person considered employableSingle person with a disability*Single parent, one childCouple, two children
Basic social assistance$2,640$3,977$4,992$8,405
Additional SA benefits$6,834$8,094$9,612$9,772
Federal child benefits  $6,448$10,881
Provincial child benefits    
GST credit$282$332$712$860
Provincial tax credits/benefits    
Total 2018 income$9,756$12,403 $21,764 $29,918

Download the data in a table

Total welfare incomes in Manitoba ranged from $9,756 for the single person considered employable to $29,918 for the couple with two children.

Unlike other jurisdictions, in Manitoba, households received more in additional social assistance benefits than through the basic amounts. This is principally because financial support for rental costs was delivered through the Rent Assist program (though social assistance recipients received the payment through their basic benefit cheque). In July 2018, Rent Assist benefits increased for all households receiving social assistance.

Additional benefits also included the Income Assistance for Persons with Disabilities (IAPD) benefit of $1,260 ($105 per month) for the single person with a disability and the annual School Supplies Allowance of $60 for the 10-year-old and $100 for the 15-year-old.

Households with children received the Canada Child Benefit which increased in July 2018 from $533 to $541 per month for a child under the age of six and from $450 to $457 per month for a child aged between six and 17. Although Manitoba has a provincial Child Benefit, parents receiving social assistance are not eligible.

All households received the GST credit, which increased in July 2018 in line with inflation.


Changes to welfare incomes

The graphs below show how the total welfare incomes for each of the four illustrative household types have changed over time. The values are in constant 2018 dollars, taking into account the effect of inflation as measured by the national consumer price index.

Download the data in a table

  • After peaking in 1992, welfare incomes for the single person considered employable and the person with a disability followed a similar downward trend until the mid-2000s.

  • There were noteworthy increases in welfare incomes in 2015 and 2016 for both households, largely due to enhancements to the Manitoba Rent Assist program. Since 2016, welfare incomes have been relatively flat.

  • In 2018, a single person with a disability received $12,403. The welfare income of a single person considered employable stood at $9,756. Despite recent increases, these incomes still fell below the level in the mid-1990s.

Download the data in a table

  • The welfare incomes of households with children rose considerably in 2015 and 2016, largely due to changes to federal child benefits and enhancements to the Manitoba Rent Assist program.

  • For the two decades after 1993, the welfare income of a single parent with one child remained relatively flat. But in 2015 and 2016 it increased substantially, and by 2018 it stood at $21,764.

  • The welfare income for a couple with two children peaked in 1992 at $32,324, then declined until the early 2000s. In 2015, this welfare income began to increase substantially but fell slightly in 2018 to $29,918.


Adequacy of welfare incomes

The adequacy of a household’s total welfare income can be assessed by comparing it to a set threshold of low income. In Canada there are three commonly used measures:

  1. The official poverty measure (also known as the Market Basket Measure or MBM) identifies households whose disposable income is less than the cost of a basket of goods and services that represent a basic standard of living.
  2. The Low Income Measure of poverty (LIM) identifies households whose income is substantially below what is typical in society (less than half of the median income).
  3. The Low Income Cut-Off measure (LICO) identifies households that are likely to spend a disproportionately large share of their income on the necessities of food, clothing, and shelter.

The table below shows how welfare incomes in Manitoba for the four household types compared three low income thresholds (after tax). Because LICO and MBM thresholds vary by community size, the threshold used is for Winnipeg.

 Single person considered employableSingle person with a disabilitySingle parent, one childCouple, two children
Total welfare income$9,756 $12,403 $21,764 $29,918
MBM threshold (Winnipeg)$18,714 $18,714 $26,466 $37,428
Welfare income minus MBM threshold-$8,958 -$6,311 -$4,702 -$7,510
Welfare income as % of MBM52% 66% 82% 80%
LIM threshold (Canada-wide)$24,054 $24,054 $34,017 $48,108
Welfare income minus LIM threshold-$14,298 -$11,651 -$12,253 -$18,190
Welfare income as % of LIM41% 52% 64% 62%
LICO threshold (Winnipeg)$21,481 $21,481 $26,143 $40,614
Welfare income minus LICO threshold-$11,725 -$9,078 -$4,379 -$10,696
Welfare income as % of LICO45% 58% 83% 74%

Download the data in a table

For each household type, the maximum welfare income fell well below all of the low income measures. As a proportion, the biggest gap was for single adults considered employable — their welfare income was between 41 per cent and 52 per cent of the low income thresholds. The smallest gap was for single parents with one child — their welfare income was between 64 per cent and 83 per cent of the low income thresholds.

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