Welfare in Canada

Last updated in June 2021 with revised data

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

In Quebec, households that qualify for basic social assistance payments also qualify for other financial support, including:

  • Recurring additional social assistance payments (for example, an annual back-to-school allowance);
  • Federal and provincial child benefits (for households with children);
  • The GST/HST credit and credit supplements; and
  • Provincial tax credits or benefits.

Together, these combine with basic social assistance payments 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. The table below shows the value and components of welfare incomes for four example household types in 2019. All four households are assumed to be living in Montreal. The child in the single parent family is aged two, and the children in the couple household are aged 10 and 15.

 Single person considered employableSingle person with a disabilitySingle parent, one childCouple, two children
Basic social assistance$11,448$12,732$12,708$18,607
Additional SA benefits  $960$1,159
Federal child benefits  $6,568$11,083
Provincial child benefits  $3,339$4,411
GST/HST credit$287$339$725$876
Provincial tax credits/benefits$990$990$1,110$1,500
Total 2019 income$12,725 $14,060$25,409 $37,636

Note: Totals may not add up due to rounding.

Download the data in a table

Total annual welfare incomes in 2019 ranged from $9,605 for a single person considered employable to $37,636 for a couple with two children.

All households received Social Assistance program benefits, except for the single person with a disability who received Social Solidarity program benefits. Social Assistance and Social Solidarity benefits increase with inflation every January.

As part of basic benefits, the single person considered employable received the Single Person Supplement of $50 per month after being in receipt of Social Assistance for six consecutive months. Each household received the Monthly Supplement as part of their basic benefits. This was increased in January 2019 to $25 per month for households receiving Social Assistance and to $83 per month for the single person with a disability receiving Social Solidarity benefits.

The Aim for Employment program was introduced in April 2018 and is mandatory for new Social Assistance program applicants. It includes a Participation Allowance for recipients who complete planned employment-related activities. The Participation Allowance is $260 per month for activities related to training or the acquisition of skills or $165 per month for other types of activities. For single parents the amount is $390 per month. The table reflects the maximum Participation Allowance amounts. Single parents with children under five years old can opt out of participation allowance activities and instead receive the Social Assistance Temporarily Limited Capacity Allowance (TLCA) of $136 per month (as the default program, the table shows the Participation Allowance rather than the TLCA).

In addition to basic assistance, both households with children received $960 ($80 per month) through the Shelter Allowance benefit. 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 with inflation in July 2019 from $541 to $553.25 per month for a child under 6 years of age, and from $457 to $466.83 per month for a child aged 6 to 17.

Both households with children also received the Family Allowance (formerly Child Assistance), which increased from $2,430 to $2,472 for one child, and from $3,644 to $4,207 for two children. The Family Allowance single parent supplement increased from $852 to $867. The additional School Supply Supplement of $106 was received by the couple household for each child.

All four households received the GST/HST credit, which increased in July 2019 with inflation. The single person considered employable and the single person with a disability both received $287, while the single parent with one child received $574 and the couple with two children received $876. The single person with a disability also received $51.74 through the GST/HST credit supplement while the single parent received the full amount of $151.

All four households also received the Quebec Solidarity Tax Credit, which increased with inflation in July 2019.

 

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. The values are in constant 2019 dollars, taking into account the effect of inflation as measured by the national consumer price index.

Download the data in a table

  • After significant increases in the late 1980s, the welfare income of a single person considered employable declined gradually between 1993 and 2011 but rose thereafter to levels only slightly below their 1993 peak, until the large increase in 2019. The welfare income of a single person with a disability remained relatively flat through the 1990s and 2000s, rising in 2012, and again in 2018 and 2019.

  • The introduction of the Quebec Solidarity Tax Credit, which enhanced and replaced earlier tax credit programs, caused the 2012 income increase for both household types. The large increase to the income of the single person with a disability in 2018 was due to enhancements in basic social assistance benefits.

  • In 2019, the total welfare income of a single person considered employable was $12,725, an increase of $3,228 over the previous year and the largest increase in six years, due to the inclusion of the maximum Participation Allowance under the Aim for Employment program

  • The total 2019 welfare income of a single person with a disability was $14,060, an increase of just over $400 over 2018 due to increases in the regular allowance and the Monthly Supplement for those receiving Social Solidarity benefits.

Download the data in a table

  • Total welfare incomes of both households with children saw significant fluctuations throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, a gradual increase between 2006 and 2018, and a significant increase in 2019.

  • The introduction of the Quebec Solidarity Tax Credit, which enhanced and replaced earlier tax credit programs, caused the 2012 income increase for both household types. Increases between 2015 and 2017 were primarily the result of changes to federal child benefits.

  • The increase in 2019 can be attributed to the Participation Allowance, introduced as of January 2019 for all new recipients of Social Assistance benefits through the mandatory Aim for Employment program, as well as increases to the Family Allowance (formerly Child Assistance).

  • In 2019, welfare incomes were $25,409 for a single parent with one child and $37,636 for a couple with two children. These are by far the highest amounts across the entire time series.

 

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:

  1. The official poverty measure, the Market Basket Measure (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.
  2. The Low Income Measure (LIM) identifies households whose income is substantially below what is typical in society (less than half of the median income).
  3. 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.

The table below shows how welfare incomes for the four example household types compared to the three low-income thresholds (after tax). Because LICO and MBM thresholds vary by community size, the threshold used for each is for Montreal.​

 Single person considered employableSingle person with a disabilitySingle parent, one childCouple, two children
Total welfare income$12,725$14,060$25,409$37,636
MBM    
MBM threshold (Montreal)$20,530$20,530$29,033$41,059
Welfare income minus MBM threshold-$7,806-$6,470-$3,624-$3,423
Welfare income as % of MBM62%68%88%92%
LIM    
LIM threshold (Canada-wide)$24,642$24,642$34,850$49,285
Welfare income minus LIM threshold-$11,918-$10,582-$9,441-$11,649
Welfare income as % of LIM52%57%73%76%
LICO    
LICO threshold (Montreal)$21,899$21,899$26,653$41,406
Welfare income minus LICO threshold-$9,175-$7,839-$1,244-$3,770
Welfare income as % of LICO58%64%95%91%

Download the data in a table

The maximum 2019 welfare incomes of all four example household types were below the thresholds of every low-income measure, although the households with children had incomes only slightly below some of the thresholds.

The lowest income relative to the thresholds was that of a single person considered employable, who had a total income of between 52 and 62 per cent of the low-income thresholds. A single person with a disability fared somewhat better, with a total income of between 57 and 68 per cent of the thresholds. The highest income relative to the thresholds were those of households with children. The single parent with one child had an income of between 73 and 95 per cent of the thresholds, while the couple with two children household had an income of between 76 and 92 per cent of the thresholds.

Given that the MBM is Canada’s official poverty measure, and that having an income less than 75 per cent of the MBM is classified as “deep poverty,” the example single person households would have been living in deep poverty in 2019. The two households with children had incomes above the deep poverty threshold, but remained below the poverty threshold.

Return to top