Welfare in Canada

Quebec

Last updated in December 2021

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:

  • Recurring additional social assistance payments from the province;
  • Federal and provincial child benefits (for households with children); and
  • Federal and provincial tax credits or benefits.

Together, these combine 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. In 2020, these households were also eligible for benefits introduced in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The table below shows the value of the welfare income components of the four example household types in Quebec in 2020. All four households are assumed to be living in Montreal. The child in the single parent family is two years old and the children in the couple household are ten and 15. COVID-19 pandemic-related payments are included in the basic social assistance, child benefit, and tax credit/benefits amounts, where applicable.

Components of welfare incomes, 2020

Note: Totals may not add up due to rounding.

Total annual welfare incomes in 2020 ranged from $13,005 for the unattached single considered employable to $40,544 for the couple with two children. The income of the unattached single with a disability was $14,714 and that of the single parent with one child was $23,897.

Basic social assistance: All households received Aim for Employment benefits through the Social Assistance Program, except for the unattached single with a disability who received Social Solidarity Program benefits. Social Assistance and Social Solidarity benefits increase with inflation every January.

Note

The Government Action Plan for Economic Inclusion and Social Participation 2017-2023, announced December 10, 2017, introduced a Basic Income Program for people with severe employment constraints. Program implementation will be phased in by 2023. Starting January 1, 2019, Social Solidarity Program recipients who have been in the program for at least 66 of the past 72 months became eligible for a new benefit, the “ajustement de la prestation de base 66/72.” As of January 1, 2020, the amount of the ajustement is $215 per month for unattached singles and single-parent families and $160 per month for two-adult families (s.67.5 / s.157.1 - see Transitional OC 1408-2018 Section 17(2)).

The Aim for Employment Program was introduced in April 2018 and was mandatory for all new Social Assistance Program applicants, providing a basic program allowance and a Participation Allowance for recipients who complete planned employment-related activities.

As part of basic benefits, all four households received the Monthly Adjustment, which increased in January 2020 to $35 per month for households receiving Social Assistance and $93 per month for the unattached single with a disability receiving Social Solidarity benefits.

Note that we have removed the Single Person Supplement of $50 per month for the unattached single considered employable, which was included in previous years, because Aim for Employment recipients are not eligible for this benefit.

The Aim for Employment Participation Allowance is $260 per month per adult for activities related to training or the acquisition of skills or $165 per month per adult for other types of activities. Our calculations reflect the maximum Participation Allowance amounts for both the unattached single considered employable and the couple with two children. For single parents with children under five years old (i.e., under school age), we are including the Temporarily Limited Capacity Allowance (TLCA) of $138 per month from Social Assistance.

Additional social assistance: In addition to basic assistance, both households with children received $960 ($80 per month) through the Shelter Allowance administered through Revenu Québec. The couple with two children also received the annual School Allowance of $76 for the ten-year-old and $123 for the 15-year-old.

Federal child benefits: Both households with children received the Canada Child Benefit (CCB), which increased with inflation in July 2020 from $553.25 to $563.75 per month for a child under six years of age and from $466.83 to $475.67 per month for a child aged six to 17. In addition, they received a one-time COVID-19 pandemic-related CCB top-up payment of $300 per child in May.

Provincial child benefits: Both households with children received the Family Allowance, which increased from $2,472 to $2,515 for one child, and from $4,207 to $5,030 for two children. The single parent with one child received the Family Allowance single parent supplement, which increased from $867 to $882. The School Supply Supplement of $104 per child was received by the couple with two children.

Federal tax credits / benefits: All four households received the GST/HST credit, which increased in July 2020 with inflation. The unattached single considered employable and the unattached single with a disability both received $293, the single parent with one child received $586, and the couple with two children received $894. The unattached single considered employable also received $16 through the GST/HST credit supplement, while the person with a disability received $68, and the single parent with one child received the full amount of $154.

A one-time COVID-19 pandemic-related GST/HST credit top-up payment, delivered in April 2020, provided the basic amount of $290 to both the unattached single considered employable and the unattached single with a disability. The single parent with one child received $733 and the couple with two children received $886.

Provincial tax credits / benefits: All four households also received the Quebec Solidarity Tax Credit, which increased with inflation in July 2020.

COVID-19 pandemic-related payments

All pandemic-related payments available to the example Quebec households came from federal programs (i.e., the GST/HST credit and Canada Child Benefit). In total, the unattached single considered employable and the unattached single with a disability received an additional $290 related to the pandemic, while the single parent with one child received $1,033 and the couple with two children received $1,486. These amounts are included in, and are not in addition to, the benefits described in the Components section above.

COVID-19 pandemic-related payments, 2020

Changes to welfare incomes

The graphs below show how the total welfare incomes for each of the four example household types in Quebec have changed over time. Note that the values are in 2020 constant dollars, and not in nominal dollars. This takes into account the effect of inflation as measured by the national consumer price index given that inflation reduces real dollar values over time.

After large increases in the late 1980s, the welfare income of the unattached single considered employable declined until 2011, rose gradually, then steeply increased in 2019. The welfare income of the unattached single with a disability remained relatively flat through the 1990s and 2000s, with a more notable increase in 2012 and again in 2020.

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 unattached single with a disability in 2018 was due to enhancements in basic social assistance benefits. The 2020 increases were due primarily to COVID-19 pandemic-related payments, as well as regular inflationary increases to most benefits.

In 2020, the total welfare income of the unattached single considered employable was $13,005 and that of the unattached single with a disability was $14,714, both of which are the highest across the time series.

The total welfare income of the single parent with one child remained relatively stable between 1992 and 2011, after fluctuations in the late 1980s. This trend was followed by a period of general increases between 2012 and 2019, with a jump in 2020. The total welfare income of the couple with two children followed a similar pattern, with much more significant increases in 2015, 2019 and 2020.

The introduction of the Quebec Solidarity Tax Credit, which enhanced and replaced earlier tax credit programs, resulted in the 2012 income increase for both household types. Increases between 2015 and 2017 were primarily the result of changes to federal child benefits. The large increase between 2018 and 2019 for the couple with two children was due to the inclusion of the Aim for Employment Participation Allowance for both adults, while the single parent received the much lower Temporarily Limited Capacity Allowance. The 2020 increases were due primarily to COVID-19 pandemic-related payments, as well as regular inflationary increases to most benefits.

In 2020, welfare incomes were $23,897 for the single parent with one child and $40,544 for the couple with two children. These are 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 poverty and/or low income.

In Canada, there are two commonly used measures of poverty:

  • Canada’s Official Poverty Line, 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.
  • Deep Income Poverty (MBM-DIP) identifies households whose disposable income is less than 75 per cent of the MBM.

There are also two commonly used measures of low income:

  • The Low Income Measure (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 (LICO) identifies households that are likely to spend a disproportionately large share of their income on the necessities of food, clothing, and shelter.

Note that MBM thresholds vary by province and community size and LICO thresholds vary by community size, and so those for Montreal are used in the analysis below. As well, both the MBM and LIM thresholds are estimates based on increasing the 2019 thresholds to account for inflation.

Note also that none of the poverty or low-income measures currently in use in Canada account for the higher cost of living faced by persons with disabilities, and thus these additional costs are not reflected in our analysis.

More information about the thresholds is available in the methodology section.

A table containing comparisons of the welfare incomes of the four example household types in Quebec with all four poverty / low-income thresholds is available for download.

Poverty threshold comparisons

The figures below compare welfare incomes for the four example household types to the MBM and MBM-DIP thresholds for Montreal.

The welfare incomes of all four example household types in Quebec were below Canada’s Official Poverty Line in 2020, meaning all these households were living in poverty. Two of the four households were also living in deep poverty in 2020, as defined by the MBM-DIP.

The unattached single considered employable had the lowest income relative to the poverty thresholds. Their income was $2,555 below the deep income poverty threshold and $7,742 below the poverty line. This means their income was 84 per cent of the MBM-DIP and 63 per cent of the MBM.

The unattached single with a disability fared better, with an income that was $847 below the deep income poverty threshold and $6,033 below the poverty line. In other words, their income was 95 per cent of the MBM-DIP and 71 per cent of the MBM.

Note that the poverty experienced by persons with disabilities is under- represented given that neither the MBM nor the MBM-DIP account for the additional costs of disability.

The single parent with one child had a welfare income that was above deep income poverty but below the poverty line. Their income was $1,892 above the deep income poverty threshold but $5,444 below the poverty line. In other words, their income was 109 per cent of the MBM-DIP but 81 per cent of the MBM.

The couple with two children had the highest income relative to the poverty thresholds. Their income was $1,892 above the deep income poverty threshold but $949 below the poverty line. This means their income was 109 per cent of MBM- DIP but 98 per cent of the MBM.

Low-income threshold comparisons

The welfare incomes of these households were also below the low-income thresholds, as shown in the table linked above.

The lowest income relative to these thresholds was that of the unattached single considered employable, whose total welfare income was only 51 per cent of the LIM and 59 per cent of the LICO. The highest was that of the couple with two children, whose welfare income was 80 per cent of the LIM and 97 per cent of the LICO.

The unattached single with a disability had a welfare income of 58 per cent of the LIM and 67 per cent of the LICO. The single parent with one child had a welfare income of 67 per cent of the LIM and 89 per cent of the LICO.

Changes to adequacy of welfare incomes

The graph below shows the total welfare incomes of each of the four example household types in Quebec since 2002 as a percentage of the MBM, which indicates changes in their level of poverty over time. A rise in the trendline indicates an improvement in their level of poverty while a decline indicates a worsening of their poverty.

Note that the MBM thresholds reflect the base in use in each year in question (i.e., the 2000, 2008, and 2018 bases; the latter two are indicated with vertical lines in each graph). Rebasing creates a sufficiently higher threshold than that using a previous base, which typically results in a worsening of poverty in the year in which the new base is used. As noted above, MBM thresholds vary by province and community size, and so Montreal is used. Also note that the 2020 MBM thresholds are estimates. More information is in the methodology section.

The welfare income of the unattached single considered employable was the lowest among the four example households relative to the poverty line, starting the time series at 56 per cent of the MBM. From 2002 to 2007, their welfare income gradually declined from 56 to 53 per cent of the poverty line, followed by a steeper decline to 46 per cent with the 2008 rebasing. Stagnation followed between 2008 and 2011, with a gradual increase to 51 per cent in 2017. A drop with the 2018 rebasing to 46 per cent was followed by increases over the subsequent two years, leading to a peak in 2020 of 63 per cent of the poverty line, the highest value across the time series.

The welfare income of the unattached single with a disability started at 80 per cent of the poverty line in 2002, reaching a peak in 2003 of 81 per cent. A decline to 78 per cent in 2007 was followed by a steep drop to 69 per cent with the 2008 MBM rebasing. Between 2008 and 2020, their income relative to the poverty line was stagnant with some fluctuations, including a drop with the 2018 MBM rebasing to 68 per cent. In 2020, their income increased slightly to 71 per cent of the poverty line.

The welfare income of the single parent with one child fared best relative to the poverty line among all four households until 2018, although their income began and ended the time series at virtually the same level. An increase from 82 per cent to a peak of 89 per cent of the poverty line between 2002 and 2007 was followed by a decline to 79 per cent with the 2008 MBM rebasing. Relative stagnation from 2008 to 2014 was followed by a gradual increase to 86 per cent in 2017. Another decline with the 2018 MBM rebasing worsened their level of poverty to 77 per cent. After a small subsequent increase, their welfare income stood at 81 per cent of the poverty line in 2020.

The welfare income of the couple with two children followed a similar trendline to that of the single parent with one child, but with a sharp increase in the final two years of the time series. Their income started at 74 per cent of the poverty line in 2002 and increased to 81 per cent in 2007. A sharp decline to 71 per cent was seen with the 2008 MBM rebasing. Stagnation from 2008 to 2015 was followed by an increase to 84 per cent by 2017, followed by another decline to 76 per cent with the 2018 MBM rebasing. Improvements related particularly to the inclusion of participation allowances in basic social assistance benefits resulted in a 2020 income that was 98 per cent of the poverty line.