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 Nunavut 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 Iqaluit in 2018.

 Single person considered employableSingle person with a disability*Single parent, one childCouple, two children
Basic social assistance$7,500$7,500$10,608$17,160
Additional SA benefits $3,000  
Federal child benefits  $6,448$10,881
Territorial child benefits  $330$660
GST credit$282$282$712$860
Territorial tax credits/benefits    
Total 2018 income$7,782$10,782$18,098$29,561

Download the data in a table

Total welfare incomes in Nunavut ranged from $7,782 for the single person considered employable to $29,561 for the couple with two children. Unlike the equivalent figures for other provinces and territories in Canada, this was the social assistance households had after the majority of their housing costs had been paid.

In Iqaluit, 95 per cent of households receiving social assistance live in public housing. Since 2012, these welfare income calculations have used the public housing rent to better reflect the actual amounts paid to households receiving social assistance. Recipients in public housing do not pay 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 the two other territories, the majority of housing costs have already been paid.

In July 2018, the structure of basic social assistance in Nunavut changed when the Food Allowance and Clothing Allowance were replaced by the Basic Allowance. This increased the basic social assistance income of all households.

In addition to basic assistance, the single person with a disability also received $3,000 ($250 per month) through the Incidental Allowance.

Both 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. They also received $27.50 per child per month through the Nunavut Child Benefit.

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.

The precipitous drop in income for all household types starting 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 clients 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

  • The total welfare incomes of the single person considered employable and the person with a disability had remained relatively flat since 2012, when total welfare incomes for all household types dropped as a result of methodological changes.

  • But in 2018, welfare incomes increased as a result of the introduction of the Basic Allowance, which replaced and enhanced the former Food Allowance and Clothing Allowance.

  • In 2018, a single person considered employable had a welfare income of $7,782 ($1,695 higher than in 2017) and a person with a disability received $10,782 ($1,984 higher than in 2017).

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 a sharp decrease in 2012 due to a change in methodology, rather than a change in social assistance policy.

  • The welfare incomes of households with children rose between 2015 and 2017, largely as a result of changes to federal child benefits.

  • In 2018, they rose again due to the introduction the Basic Allowance, which replaced and enhanced the former Food Allowance and Clothing Allowance. The welfare income for a single parent with one child stood at $18,098 ($695 higher than in 2017), and for a couple with two children it was $29,561 ($193 higher than in 2017).

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