Welfare in Canada
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Last updated: November 2019
This resource is not intended to help individuals identify what government transfers they could be entitled to. Individuals living in Quebec 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 Montreal in 2018.
|Single person considered employable||Single person with a disability*||Single parent, one child||Couple, two children|
|Basic social assistance||$8,061||$12,347||$9,369||$12,028|
|Additional SA benefits||$960||$1,159|
|Federal child benefits||$6,448||$10,881|
|Provincial child benefits||$3,282||$4,044|
|Provincial tax credits/benefits||$977||$977||$1,096||$1,482|
|Total 2018 income||$9,320||$13,651||$21,867||$30,453|
Total welfare incomes in Quebec ranged from $9,320 for a single person considered employable to $30,453 for a couple with two children.
In Quebec, all of the example households received Social Assistance benefits, except for the single person with a disability, who received Social Solidarity benefits. For the single parent, the Temporarily Limited Capacity Allowance of $134 per month was included in the basic amount.
All basic social assistance benefit amounts were increased in January 2018. In February 2018, a new monthly supplement of $15 per month for each household receiving Social Assistance benefits and $73 per month for a single person with a disability receiving Social Solidarity benefits was introduced.
In addition to basic assistance, households with children received $960 ($80 per month) through the Shelter Allowance benefit (administered by the Societé d’habitation du Québec). The household with two children also received the annual School Allowance of $76 for the 10-year-old and $123 for the 15-year-old.
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.
The provincial Child Benefit (Child Assistance) rates also increased in January 2018, to a maximum monthly benefit of $202.50 for a one-child household and $303.67 for a two-child household. Single parents received an additional supplement of $71.00 per month. In 2017, a new benefit — the supplement for the purchase of school supplies — was incorporated into the Child Assistance program. It provided $100 per year for each child from the ages of four to 16. In 2018, two payments were made; one in January 2018 for the 2017-18 school year and another in July/August for the 2018-19 school year. In late 2018, the Child Assistance program was renamed Family Allowances.
All households received the GST credit and the Quebec Solidarity Tax Credit. Both increased in July 2018.
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 welfare income of a single person considered employable declined gradually after the mid-1990s but rose again starting in 2012. Meanwhile, the welfare income of a single person with a disability remained stable throughout the 1990s and 2000s and rose in 2012.
The increase in welfare incomes in 2012 for both households can be attributed to the introduction of the Quebec Solidarity Tax, which enhanced and replaced earlier tax credit programs.
In 2018, the welfare income of a single person considered employable stood at $9,320. Despite a slight increase to social assistance rates in February 2018, their overall income was largely unchanged from the previous year.
Conversely, there was a notable increase in the welfare income of a single person with a disability due to a larger rise to their social assistance rates in February in 2018. The total welfare income of a single person with a disability was $13,651 in 2018, $617 higher than in 2017.
The welfare incomes of households with children in Quebec fluctuated during the 1990s and 2000s.
In 2012, both household types saw an increase in their welfare incomes due to the introduction of the Quebec Solidarity Tax Credit, which enhanced and replaced earlier tax credit programs.
The increase to welfare incomes of families with children from 2015 to 2017 was largely the result of changes to federal child benefits.
Despite a slight increase to social assistance rates in February 2018 and the introduction of an annual supplement for school supplies for the couple with two children under the Child Assistance program, the value of welfare incomes for households with children barely changed from the previous year.
In 2018, welfare incomes were $21,867 for the single parent with one child and $30,453 for the couple with two children.
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 official poverty measure (also known as the Market Basket Measure or MBM) 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 Quebec for the four household types compared to three low income thresholds (after tax). Because LICO and MBM thresholds vary by community size, the threshold used is for Montreal.
|Single person considered employable||Single person with a disability||Single parent, one child||Couple, two children|
|Total welfare income||$9,320||$13,651||$21,867||$30,453|
|MBM threshold (Montreal)||$18,026||$18,026||$25,493||$36,052|
|Welfare income minus MBM threshold||-$8,706||-$4,375||-$3,627||-$5,599|
|Welfare income as % of MBM||52%||76%||86%||84%|
|LIM threshold (Canada-wide)||$24,054||$24,054||$34,017||$48,108|
|Welfare income minus LIM threshold||-$14,734||-$10,402||-$12,150||-$17,654|
|Welfare income as % of LIM||39%||57%||64%||63%|
|LICO threshold (Montreal)||$21,481||$21,481||$26,143||$40,614|
|Welfare income minus LICO threshold||-$12,161||-$7,830||-$4,277||-$10,161|
|Welfare income as % of LICO||43%||64%||84%||75%|
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 39 per cent and 52 per cent of the low income thresholds. The smallest gap was for single parents with one child — their welfare income was between 64 per cent and 86 per cent of the low income thresholds.