Welfare in Canada, 2017
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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 Charlottetown in 2017.
|Single person considered employable||Single person with a disability||Single parent, one child||Couple, two children|
|Basic social assistance||$7,512||$9,828||$13,352||$19,972|
|Additional SA benefits||$350|
|Federal child benefits||$6,400||$10,800|
|Provincial child benefits|
|Provincial tax credits/benefits||$110||$110||$165||$165|
|Total 2017 income||$7,900||$10,229||$20,619||$32,135|
In November 2017, monthly basic social assistance payments in Prince Edward Island increased, rising by $6 for the single adult households, $10 for the single parent household and $20 for the couple with children. Alongside basic social assistance, the couple with children also received $350 in additional benefits through the School Allowance ($75 for the 10-year-old and $100 for the 15-year-old issued in August and December). In addition, all households in PEI benefited from the PEI Sales Tax Credit.
Most social assistance recipients with disabilities received additional financial support through the Disability Support Program (DSP). Recipients ineligible for the DSP could have applied for the Personal Comfort Allowance ($71 per month), Special Care Allowance (up to $40 per month), or Disability Allowance (up to $150 per month) through the social assistance program, but these amounts were not part of the “standard package” of benefits and were not included in the table.
Total welfare incomes in PEI ranged from $7,900 for a single person considered employable to $32,135 for a couple with two children.
Changes to welfare incomes
There was only one substantive change that affected welfare incomes in Prince Edward Island 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.
- Both single persons considered employable and single persons with disabilities saw their welfare incomes drop significantly starting in 1994. For single persons considered employable, the drop was much sharper and occurred over three years. For single persons with disabilities, welfare incomes fell more gradually until 2003. Since then, welfare incomes have remained fairly constant.
- In 2017, the maximum welfare income of a single person considered employable and a single person with a disability stood at $7,900 and $10,229, respectively. Both of these amounts were nearly $4,000 lower than in the early 1990s.
- Unlike single adult households in PEI, households with children have seen a steady increase in their welfare incomes since the mid-1990s, with a more notable increase from 2015 as federal child benefits changed.
- In 2017, the maximum welfare income of a single parent with one child and a couple with two children stood at $20,619 and $32,135, respectively, the highest levels over the entire time 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:
- 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.
- 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).
- 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 Prince Edward Island for the four household types compared to the three low income thresholds (after tax). The LICO and MBM thresholds are for Charlottetown, the largest city in PEI.
Single person considered employable
Single person with a disability
Single parent, one child
Couple, two children
Total welfare income
MBM threshold (Charlottetown)
Welfare income minus MBM threshold
Welfare income as % of MBM
LIM threshold (Canada-wide)
Welfare income minus LIM threshold
Welfare income as % of LIM
LICO threshold (Charlottetown)
Welfare income minus LICO threshold
Welfare income as % of LICO
For each household type, the maximum welfare income fell well below all of the low income measures with two exceptions: the welfare income of both households with children reached 97 per cent of the LICO threshold, but they amounted to a much smaller share of the MBM and LIM thresholds. As a proportion, the biggest gap was for single adults considered employable — their welfare income was between 34 and 45 per cent of the low income thresholds.