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Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Study: Social assistance by province

1993 to 2003

Social assistance rates fell in every province between 1993 and 2003, but nowhere was the decline more dramatic than in Alberta and Ontario, according to a new report.

In 1993, 7.4% of Alberta's population was on social assistance. By 2003, this proportion had plunged to a national low of only 1.8%.

In Ontario, 12.1% of the population was on social assistance in 1993, the highest rate among the provinces. Ten years later, this proportion had declined to 5.5%, which was also the national average.

Nearly 3.0 million people nationwide were receiving welfare benefits in 1993. A decade later, this level had plunged 41.3% to over 1.7 million.

The decline in numbers was more pronounced moving from east to west. Levels fell by 36% in the Atlantic region, 40% in central Canada and 48% in the West. The largest changes in relative position were in central Canada.

Quebec ended the 10-year period with the second highest social assistance rate in the country behind Newfoundland and Labrador.

In 1993, 10.4% of Quebec's population was receiving welfare benefits. By 2003, the proportion had declined to 7.3%. At the same time, Newfoundland and Labrador's rate fell from 11.7% to 9.9%.

Most of the decline in Newfoundland and Labrador occurred between 1997 and 2002, the province's best five years for growth in employment in a generation. The Hibernia megaproject boosted employment, and raised energy output sharply to 15% of provincial gross domestic product in 2000.

Quebec had one of the smallest declines in the number of welfare recipients in Canada. Between 1993 and 2003, the number of recipients fell 27% to 544,200. This level represented nearly one-third of Canada's total, compared with only one-quarter in 1993.

At its peak in 1993, Alberta had 196,000 people on welfare. By 2003, this level had been cut by 70% to 57,800, the fastest rate of decline in the country.

Alberta's job growth for the whole decade was by far the strongest in Canada, with jobs up by one-third. Alberta's reductions in benefit levels were not markedly different from the other provinces during this period, as it had already made the largest cuts well before 1993, especially for single people. Their benefits were cut by half in 2003 compared with 1986, the biggest decline among the provinces.

Ontario recorded the second fastest drop in people on social assistance during the decade. At the peak in 1994, nearly 1.4 million people in Ontario received social assistance. By 2003, this level was also down by over one-half to 673,900.

Between 1992 and 2000, Ontario posted the largest declines in social assistance rates for couples without children, as well as unattached individuals. Its decline in social assistance was helped by the second strongest labour market in the country during this period, driven by growth in exports.

The article "Social assistance by province, 1993 to 2003" is now available free online. It also appears in the November 2004 issue of Canadian Economic Observer, Vol. 17, no. 11 (11-010-XIB, $19/$182), which is now available.

For more information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Francine Roy (613-951-3627), Current Economic Analysis.

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