Latest Welfare Rates and How They Compare to Poverty Measures

Posted on November 22, 2019 in Social Security Delivery System

Source: — Authors: – Latest
November 18, 2019.   By Maytree

This article was originally published at

Today, Maytree is releasing Welfare in Canada, 2018, the latest update of a yearly series showing the total income households on social assistance would have received (i.e., their income from social assistance alongside tax credits and child benefits). The report looks at how welfare incomes varied across every province and territory for four example households in 2018:

  • Single person considered employable
  • Single person with a disability
  • Single parent with one child age 2
  • Couple with two children ages 10 and 15

Using data provided by provincial and territorial government officials, the report describes the components of welfare incomes, how they have changed from previous years, and how they compared to low income thresholds. The amounts vary in every province and territory because each jurisdiction has distinct social assistance programs.

Key findings:

  • In 2018, total welfare incomes did not keep pace with the cost of living in 33 of the 52 scenarios tracked in this report (4 household types across the 13 provinces and territories). In these cases, household receiving welfare were worse off in 2018 than they were in 2017.
  • There were only two jurisdictions – Nunavut and British Columbia – where the welfare incomes rose by more than the cost of living for all of the four household types considered.
    • In Nunavut, welfare incomes rose due to the restructure of, and increase to, basic social assistance payments in July 2018.
    • In British Columbia, the increase in 2018 welfare incomes was driven by a $100 rise in monthly social assistance payments for all household types which came into effect in October 2017.
  • Even where welfare incomes were highest, they fell short of the poverty threshold. The closest was in Quebec where the welfare income of a single parent reached 85 per cent of the poverty threshold and in PEI where welfare incomes for a couple with two children also reached 85 per cent of the threshold.
  • The welfare incomes in the Yukon and the Northwest Territories were generally higher than in the provinces, reflecting the higher cost of living in the territories. Conversely, welfare incomes in Nunavut were lower than in the provinces, reflecting the high proportion of households on social assistance living in subsidized housing whose living costs are reduced through housing subsidies.

To access the data and download the report, visit

Welfare in Canada was established by the Caledon Institute of Social Policy to maintain data previously published by the National Council of Welfare. In 2018, Maytree assumed responsibility for updating the series.

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