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 Iqaluit in 2017.

 Single person considered employableSingle person with a disabilitySingle parent, one childCouple, two children
Basic social assistance$5,672$5,772$9,580$16,400
Additional SA benefits $2,550  
Federal child benefits  $6,400$10,800
Territorial child benefits  $330$660
GST credit$278$278$702$848
Territorial tax credits/benefits    
Total 2017 income$5,950$8,600$17,012$28,708

Download the data in a table

In Iqaluit, 95 per cent of social assistance recipients live in public housing. Since 2012, these welfare income calculations have used the public housing rent to better reflect the actual amounts paid to Income Assistance households. Recipients in public housing do not pay for fuel, water, sewage, garbage, and/or municipal needs, and their electricity costs are heavily subsidized. This means that although the totals for basic assistance appear to be much lower than elsewhere in Canada, the majority of housing costs have already been paid.

Alongside basic levels of social assistance, a single person with a disability in Nunavut received an additional benefit in the form of the Incidental Allowance which rose from $175 to $250 per month in July. Meanwhile, households with children received $27.50 per child per month through the Nunavut Child Benefit.

Total welfare incomes in Nunavut ranged from $5,950 for a single person considered employable to $28,708 for a couple with two children. Unlike the equivalent figure for the other provinces and territories in Canada, this was the income social assistance claimants had after the majority of their housing costs had been paid.

Changes to welfare incomes

full year that the Canada Child Benefit was paid, impacting households with children. Second, in July 2017, the monthly Incidental Allowance increased by $75, impacting single persons with disabilities.

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.

The precipitous drop in income for all household types in 2012 was due to a change in methodology. Prior to 2012, shelter costs were calculated based on market rents, as was and continues to be the case in the rest of the country. However, this changed in 2012 when Nunavut started using subsidized housing costs. Over 95 per cent of recipients in Iqaluit live in public housing and this change in approach more accurately reflects this reality. When looking at welfare incomes in Nunavut, it is important to take into account the fact that most housing costs have already been paid.

Download the data in a table

  • Since 2012, when total welfare incomes for all household types dropped as a result of methodological changes, the total welfare incomes of a single employable person and a person with a disability have been relatively flat.
  • In 2017, a single person considered employable had a maximum welfare income of $5,950, and a person with a disability had a maximum of $8,600.

Download the data in a table

  • The welfare incomes for both households with children followed a similar pattern to that of the single person households with the sharp decrease in 2012 due to a change in methodology rather than social assistance policy.
  • The maximum welfare incomes of households with children started to rise in 2015, largely as a result of changes to federal child benefits.
  • By 2017, the income for a single parent with one child stood at $17,012, and for a couple with two children at $28,708.

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