Welfare in Canada

Nova Scotia

Last updated: November 2022

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

Components of welfare incomes

In Nova Scotia, households that qualify for basic social assistance payments also qualify for:

  • Recurring additional social assistance payments from the province;
  • Federal and provincial child benefits (for households with children); and
  • Federal and provincial tax credits or benefits.

Together, these components combine to form a household’s total welfare income. Households may receive less if they have income from other sources, or more if they have special health- or disability-related needs. In 2021, one example household — the single parent with one child — was also eligible for payments related to the continuing COVID-19 pandemic.

The table below shows the value of the welfare income components of the four example household types in Nova Scotia in 2021. All four households are assumed to be living in Halifax. The child in the single parent household is two years old and the children in the couple household are ten and 15. COVID-19 pandemic-related payments are included where applicable in the table below.​

Components of welfare incomes, 2021

Note: Totals may not add up due to rounding.

Total annual welfare incomes in 2021 ranged from $8,385 for the unattached single considered employable to $30,571 for the couple with two children. The income of the unattached single with a disability was $11,559 and that of the single parent with one child was $21,134.

Basic social assistance: Basic social assistance amounts increased in May 2021 by $100 per month per adult for each of the example households.

Additional social assistance: Only the couple with two children received additional benefits. The annual School Supplies Supplement provided $50 for the ten-year-old and $100 for the 15-year-old. These amounts remained unchanged in 2021.

Federal child benefits: Both households with children received the Canada Child Benefit (CCB), which increased with inflation in July 2021 from $563.75 to $569.42 per month for a child under six years of age, and from $475.66 to $480.41 per month for a child aged six to 17. In addition, the single parent of one child aged two received the COVID-19 pandemic-related CCB Young Child Supplement, given to CCB-eligible families with children under the age of six, of $300 per child in January, April, July, and October.

Provincial child benefits: Both households with children received the Nova Scotia Child Benefit (NSCB). Monthly amounts, which remained unchanged in 2021, were $77.08 for the first child, $68.75 for the second child, and $75 for the third and each additional child.

Federal tax credits / benefits: All four households received the GST/HST credit, which increased in July 2021 with inflation. The unattached single considered employable and the unattached single with a disability received $297.50 in basic GST/HST credit, while the single parent with one child received $595 and the couple with two children received $907. Two households also received the GST/HST credit supplement. The unattached single with a disability received $6.34 and the single parent with one child received the maximum amount of $156.

Provincial tax credits / benefits: All four households received the Nova Scotia Affordable Living Tax Credit, which provided $255 per single adult or couple and $60 per child. These amounts remained unchanged in 2021.

COVID-19 pandemic-related payments

The only pandemic-related payment available to the example Nova Scotia households in 2021 was received by the single parent of one child aged two, which came from the federal Canada Child Benefit Young Child Supplement of $300 per child, paid in January, April, July, and October. This amount is included in, and is not in addition to, the benefits described in the Components section above.

COVID-19 pandemic-related payments, 2021

Changes to welfare incomes

The graphs below show how the total welfare incomes for each of the four example household types have changed over time. Note that the values are in 2021 constant dollars, not in nominal dollars. Using constant dollars takes into account the effect of inflation, as measured by the national Consumer Price Index, given that inflation reduces real dollar values over time.

Note that all four households in Nova Scotia experienced a real nominal increase in the value of their total welfare incomes between 2020 and 2021, the only jurisdiction for which this is the case.

 

The total welfare income for the unattached single considered employable declined between 1989 and 2000, followed by a period of fluctuation until 2006, stasis thereafter until 2019, and increases through 2021.

The substantial decline in 1997 was due to the amalgamation of the municipal and provincial social assistance systems, which resulted in considerably smaller payments to recipients in the City of Halifax (where the example households reside) than previously.

The welfare income of the unattached single considered employable was highest, at $11,264, in 1989 and lowest, at $6,792, in 2000.

The increase in 2020 was due primarily to increases in federal COVID-19 pandemic-related payments as well as an increase in basic social assistance benefit amounts. Despite the loss of most of the pandemic-related payments in 2021, the welfare income of the unattached single considered employable increased to $8,385, due primarily to the $100 monthly increase to basic social assistance benefits starting in May.

The unattached single with a disability saw a steady decline in total welfare income over the time series until 2020. The increase in 2020 was due primarily to COVID-19 pandemic-related benefits and an increase to basic social assistance benefits. Despite the loss of pandemic-related payments, welfare income further increased to $11,559 in 2021. This was again due to the $100 monthly increase to basic social assistance benefits starting in May.

The welfare income of the single parent with one child was stagnant between the start of the time series and 2000, followed by a decline to 2005, stasis again until 2014, and an increase to 2021. The welfare income of the couple with two children saw wider fluctuations across the time series to 2014, with the same increase to 2021.

From 2015 to 2017, the total welfare incomes of these households with children rose largely due to changes to federal child benefits. Declines between 2017 and 2019 were followed by an increase in 2020, which marked the high point across the time series, due largely to federal COVID-19 pandemic-related payments. The welfare income of the single parent with one child increased again in 2021, due primarily to the $100 monthly increase to basic social assistance benefits starting in May and the addition of the COVID-19 pandemic-related Canada Child Benefit Young Child Supplement.

The welfare income of the couple with two children declined in 2021, due primarily to the loss of pandemic-related supports. In 2021, the welfare income of the single parent household was $21,134, while that of the couple with two children was $30,571.

Note that while the welfare income of the couple with two children increased in real nominal value between 2020 and 2021, due primarily to the $100 monthly increase to basic social assistance benefits starting in May, the effect of inflation negated the increase.

Adequacy of welfare incomes

The adequacy of a household’s total welfare income can be assessed by comparing it to established thresholds of poverty and/or low income.

In Canada, there are two commonly used measures of poverty:

  • The Market Basket Measure (MBM), Canada’s Official Poverty Line, identifies households whose disposable income is less than the cost of a “basket” of goods and services that represent a basic standard of living.
  • Deep Income Poverty (MBM-DIP) identifies households whose disposable income is less than 75 per cent of the MBM.

There are also two commonly used measures of low income:

  • The Low Income Measure (LIM) identifies households whose income is substantially below what is typical in society (less than half of the median income).
  • The Low Income Cut-Off (LICO) identifies households that are likely to spend a disproportionately large share of their income on the necessities of food, clothing, and shelter.

Note that MBM thresholds vary by province and community size, and LICO thresholds vary by community size, and so those for Halifax are used in the analysis below. As well, both the MBM and LIM thresholds for 2021 are estimates based on increasing the 2020 thresholds to account for inflation.

Note also that none of the poverty or low-income measures currently in use in Canada account for the higher cost of living faced by persons with disabilities, and thus these additional costs are not reflected in our analysis.

More information about the thresholds is available in the methodology section.

A table containing comparisons of the welfare incomes of the four example household types in Nova Scotia with all four poverty / low-income thresholds is available for download.

Poverty threshold comparisons

The figures below compare welfare incomes for the four example household types to the MBM and MBM-DIP thresholds for Halifax.

The welfare incomes of all four example household types in Nova Scotia were below, and in some cases very far below, Canada’s Official Poverty Line in 2021, which means that all four households were living in poverty. All four households were also living in deep poverty in 2021, as defined by the MBM-DIP.

The unattached single considered employable had the lowest income relative to the poverty thresholds. Their income was $9,739 below the deep income poverty threshold and $15,780 below the poverty line. This means their income was only 46 per cent of the MBM-DIP and only 35 per cent of the MBM.

The unattached single with a disability fared only slightly better. Their income was $6,565 below the deep income poverty threshold and $12,606 below the poverty line. This means their income was 64 per cent of the MBM-DIP and only 48 per cent of the MBM.

Note that the poverty experienced by persons with disabilities is under-represented, because neither the MBM nor the MBM-DIP account for the additional costs associated with disability.

The single parent with one child had a welfare income that was $4,497 below the deep income poverty threshold and $13,041 below the poverty line. In other words, their income was 82 per cent of the MBM-DIP and 62 per cent of the MBM.

The couple with two children fared best of all four example households relative to the poverty line. Their welfare income was $5,677 below the deep income poverty threshold and $17,760 below the poverty line. This means their income was 84 per cent of the MBM-DIP and 63 per cent of the MBM.

Low-income threshold comparisons

The welfare incomes of these households were also below and, in some instances, far lower than the low-income thresholds, as shown in the table linked above.

The lowest income relative to these thresholds was that of the unattached single considered employable, whose total welfare income was 31 per cent of the LIM and 43 per cent of the LICO. The highest income relative to the LIM was that of the couple with two children, at 56 per cent, while their income relative to the LICO was 84 per cent. The highest income relative to the LICO was that of the single parent with one child, at 90 per cent, while their income relative to the LIM was 54 per cent. The income of the unattached single with a disability was 42 per cent of the LIM and 60 per cent of the LICO.

Changes to adequacy of welfare incomes

The graphs below show the total welfare incomes of each of the four example household types in Nova Scotia as a percentage of the Market Basket Measure (MBM), starting in 2002.

The MBM has been updated twice since its creation in 2000, first in 2008 and again in 2018. This “rebasing” updates the measure, including the items and costs included in the basket, to better reflect contemporary circumstances.

Three trendlines for each household are shown, which correspond to the relationship between welfare incomes and the original and rebased MBMs. Rebasing typically creates a higher poverty threshold than that of a previous base.

The 100 per cent threshold at the top of the vertical axis represents Canada’s Official Poverty Line. As such, the graphs essentially show how far below the poverty line the households have been in terms of their total welfare income over the past 20 years. The trendlines indicate changes in the level of poverty of the households within the years in which the bases are applied. A rise in the trendline within those periods indicates an improvement in their level of poverty while a decline indicates a worsening of the depth of their poverty.

A grey line has also been included that indicates the deep income poverty threshold, which is 75 per cent of the MBM. As such, the graphs also show the relationship between total welfare incomes over time and deep poverty.

Note that MBM thresholds vary by province and community size, and so Halifax is used. Also note that the 2021 MBM thresholds are estimates based on increasing the 2020 thresholds to account for inflation. More information is in the methodology section.

The welfare income of the unattached single considered employable started the time series in 2002 at the very low level of 38 per cent of the poverty line, increasing to 41 per cent in 2007 and 2008. After rebasing in 2008, their income was at 37 per cent of the poverty line, increasing only slightly across the next ten years to 39 per cent in 2018. After 2018’s rebasing, their income was 33 per cent of the poverty line, increasing slightly to 35 per cent in 2021.

Overall, the welfare income of the unattached single considered employable decreased slightly across the entire time series, from the already low level of 38 per cent of the poverty line in 2002 to an even lower 35 per cent in 2021. This represents an income of about one-third of the poverty line, and less than half of the deep income poverty threshold. Their income was below the deep income poverty threshold across the entire time series, which means that they would have been living in deep poverty over the last 20 years.

The welfare income of the unattached single with a disability started the time series at the higher level of 65 per cent of the poverty line, then declined to 60 per cent in 2007 and 2008. After rebasing, their income was 54 per cent of the poverty line. For the next ten years their income relative to the poverty line remained flat with slight fluctuations, ending in 2018 at 54 per cent once again. After the 2018 rebasing, their income was 45 per cent of the poverty line, increasing to 48 per cent in 2021.

Overall, the welfare income of the unattached single with a disability decreased by 17 percentage points relative to the poverty line between 2002 and 2021. This represents a significant worsening of the depth of their poverty across the time series. Furthermore, as their income was below the deep income poverty threshold across the entire time series, they would have been living in deep poverty over the past 20 years.

The welfare income of the single parent with one child started the time series in 2002 at 64 per cent of the poverty line, increasing to 69 per cent in 2007 and 2008. After rebasing, their income stood at 62 per cent of the poverty line, remaining essentially at that same level until 2013, then increased to 68 per cent of the poverty line in 2018. After 2018’s rebasing, their income was 57 per cent of the poverty line, increasing with some fluctuations to 62 per cent in 2021.

Overall, the welfare income of the single parent with one child was six percentage points lower, relative to the poverty line, in 2021 than in 2002, which indicates a slight worsening of their depth of poverty across the time series. In addition, their income was below the deep income poverty threshold across the entire time series, meaning they would have been living in deep poverty over the last 20 years.

The welfare income of the couple with two children fared best relative to the poverty line among all four households, starting the time series in 2002 at 66 per cent and increasing slightly to 68 per cent in 2008. After rebasing, their income was 61 per cent of the poverty line. As with the single parent of one child, their income remained essentially the same until 2013, increasing to 74 per cent in 2017 and 73 per cent in 2018. After the 2018 rebasing, their income was 61 per cent of the poverty line, increasing to 65 per cent in 2020 and falling slightly to 63 per cent in 2021.

Overall, the welfare income of the couple with two children ended the time series at a slightly lower level relative to the poverty line in 2021, at 63 per cent, down from 66 per cent in 2002. This indicates that their poverty worsened slightly across the time series. In addition, their income was below the deep income poverty threshold across the entire time series, meaning they would have been living in deep poverty over the last 20 years.