Welfare in Canada, 2017

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 Halifax in 2017.

 Single person considered employableSingle person with a disabilitySingle parent, one childCouple, two children
Basic social assistance$6,900$9,720$10,140$14,040
Additional SA benefits   $150
Federal child benefits  $6,400$10,800
Provincial child benefits  $625$1,450
GST credit$278$289$702$848
Provincial tax credits/benefits$255$255$315$375
Total 2017 income$7,433$10,264$18,182$27,663

Download the data in a table

Beyond basic social assistance rates, only households with children received additional provincial benefits. In September, the couple with children received an annual School Supplies Supplement of $50 for the 10-year-old and $100 for the 15-year-old. In addition, households with children received the monthly Nova Scotia Child Benefit of up to $52.08 for the first child and $68.75 for the second child. All the example households benefited from the Nova Scotia Affordable Living Tax Credit.

Total welfare incomes in Nova Scotia ranged from $7,433 for a single person considered employable to $27,663 for a couple with two children.

Changes to welfare incomes

There was only one substantive change that affected welfare incomes in Nova Scotia in 2017. This was the first full year that the Canada Child Benefit was paid, resulting in higher welfare incomes for the two household types with children.

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 2017 dollars, taking into account the effect of inflation.

Download the data in a table

  • Single persons considered employable had higher welfare incomes in the early 1990s because, prior to 1997, social assistance rates for the City of Halifax were considerably higher than those paid in other municipalities. In April 1996, the municipal and provincial social assistance systems were amalgamated, and a uniform rate was paid to single persons considered employable across the province.
  • Since the 2000s, the welfare income for a single person considered employable has remained fairly constant, and in 2017 stood at $7,433.
  • Single persons with disabilities have seen a steady decline in their welfare income over time. In 2017, it stood at $10,264, considerably lower than the 1989 figure of $13,613.

Download the data in a table

  • The maximum welfare incomes of both a single parent family and a couple with children have gone up and down over the past three decades, with the rate changes for single parents being more pronounced.
  • Since 2015, the maximum welfare incomes of households with children has been rising, largely as a result of changes to federal child benefits.
  • For a single parent with one child the maximum welfare income in 2017 stood at $18,182, still below the amounts paid in the early 1990s. For a couple with two children it reached $27,663 in 2017, the highest level in the 31-year period.

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 Market Based Measure of poverty (MBM), which the National Poverty Strategy set as the official poverty measure, 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 Nova Scotia for the four household types compared to the three low income thresholds (after tax). The LICO and MBM thresholds are for Halifax, the largest city in the province.

 Single person considered employableSingle person with a disabilitySingle parent, one childCouple, two children
Total welfare income$7,433$10,264$18,182$27,663
MBM threshold (Halifax)$19,348$19,348$27,363$38,697
Welfare income minus MBM threshold-$11,915-$9,084-$9,181-$11,034
Welfare income as % of MBM38%53%66%71%
LIM threshold (Canada-wide)$23,020$23,020$32,555$46,039
Welfare income minus LIM threshold-$15,587-$12,756-$14,373-$18,376
Welfare income as % of LIM32%45%56%60%
LICO threshold (Halifax)$17,758$17,758$21,612$33,575
Welfare income minus LICO threshold-$10,325-$7,494-$3,430-$5,912
Welfare income as % of LICO42%58%84%82%

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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 32 and 42 per cent of the low income thresholds. The welfare income of the single parent with one child and the couple with two children both reached just over 80 per cent of the LICO thresholds, but amounted to a much lower share of the MBM and LIM thresholds.

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