NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Quebecers on Welfare Longer

August 30, 2001

Equal proportions of Canadians are on welfare in each province -- about 9 percent of households -- but those in Quebec tend to remain on welfare two to four times as long, depending on the category of recipient, compared to other provinces. As recently as 1995, the Quebec government did not know how long anyone stayed on welfare. Although British Columbia and Quebec had virtually the same minimum wage, welfare benefits, levels of schooling, periods of recession and economic growth, and rate of welfare dependency, the same people were on the welfare rolls much longer in Quebec.

  • Single men in Quebec averaged 21.3 months, while they averaged 7.3 in British Columbia.
  • Single women averaged 23.5 months in Quebec to British Columbia's 8.8 months.
  • Single parents stayed on welfare 40.1 months in Quebec compared to 15.8 months in British Columbia.

The Institute for Research on Public Policy reports that economic growth has caused welfare rolls to drop, but increased benefits caused more people to move onto welfare. The increased dependency in Quebec, however, was startling and the government is looking for an answer to this dilemma. Possible causes include:

  • Decreased mobility of Quebecers because of language.
  • A higher rate of immigration into Quebec. Immigrants since 1990 have tended to be more dependent on welfare than previous generations - as has been the case in the United States and Europe as well.
  • Furthermore, the programs designed to help or encourage people off of welfare did not work very well.

In fact, another study found that participation in welfare training programs did not benefit men, who ended up staying longer on welfare. Women in those programs went to work but had shorter employment periods.

Source: Editorial, "Caught in the Welfare Trap," Gazette (Montreal), August 26, 2001; based on Guy Lacroix, "Reforming the Welfare System: In Search of the Optimal Policy Mix," Institute for Research on Public Policy, 1470 Peel Street, Suite 200, Montreal, QC H3A 1T1 Canada, (514) 985 2461.


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