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October 2005
Vol. 6, no. 10

Perspectives on Labour and Income

Who's missing out on the GIS?
Preston Poon

  • According to the 1999 Survey of Financial Security, 1.1 million families had at least one member receiving the Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS), the largest group being seniors living alone (45%) followed by senior couples (24%).
  • Senior-headed families receiving the GIS (unattached, senior couples, and other senior-headed) had significantly lower median incomes than their senior-headed, non-recipient counterparts. Virtually all of the GIS families were found in the bottom two-thirds of the after-tax income distribution for families with seniors, with the largest portion in the lowest third—roughly 60% of unattached and other senior-headed families, and over 80% of senior couples.
  • Of the nearly 3.6 million seniors covered in the 2000 Survey of Labour and Income Dynamics, about 1.3 million received the GIS while approximately 206,800 eligible individuals did not. The theoretical annual cost of payments for these eligible non-recipients was roughly $300 million.
  • In order to receive the GIS, individuals must apply annually. A large portion of GIS recipients do this automatically by filing an income tax return. Anyone else must apply directly to Social Development Canada. Overall in 2000, only 41% of those who needed to apply actually did so.

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Preston Poon is with the Income Statistics Division. He can be reached at (613) 951-4245 or

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