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V. YOUNG, OLD AND IN-BETWEEN


   One of the sad realities of Canada in the 1990s is the large number of children living in
welfare families. Nearly 1.1 million children under the age of 18 - about 15 percent of all
children or one of every seven children - were on welfare as of March 1997. Most of the
families with children on welfare were headed by single parents, and most of the families
had only one or two children. On the other hand, very few seniors have to rely on welfare because of income security
programs that are run by the federal government. Many low-income people 65 and older receive
the Guaranteed Income Supplement and the Old Age Security pension rather than welfare.
Some low-income people 60 to 65 qualify for Spouse's Allowances. That leaves the people in the age groups in between. There are striking variations in the
age groups of adults on welfare according to their family types. Many of the parents who head
welfare families are under the age of 50. Many of the couples on welfare who have no children
at home are over the age of 50. Unattached people tend to be more evenly distributed over
the entire range of age groups. Graph H on the next page shows the distribution of welfare cases in March 1997 by the
age group of the head of the family or unattached person on welfare. The cases in the graph
represent 95 percent of the estimated national caseload of 1,494,800 cases. New Brunswick
welfare cases and municipal cases in Nova Scotia and Manitoba are not included. People between the ages of 20 and 60 made up 89 percent of unattached people or heads
of households on welfare. Only four percent were under age 20, and only seven percent
were 60 or older.

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GRAPH H


  

UNDER 20 YEARS = 56,528 4% AND 60 YEARS AND OLDER = 95,457 7%


   The distribution of cases by age group differs noticeably for households with and without
children, as shown in Graph I on the next page. The two pies in the top half of the graph show welfare cases made up of couples with
children and single-parent families. The slices of the pies for families headed by parents
between the ages of 50 and 60 were combined with the slices of the pies for parents 60 and
older because there were so few parents on welfare over age 60. A total of 87 percent of the couples with children on welfare included parents in their
20s, 30s or 40s, and 91 percent of the single parents were also in their 20s, 30s, or 40s. That
should come as no surprise, because most parents have children when they are in their 20s and
30s, and most children are still at home when their parents are in their 40s. What may come
as a surprise is the fact that teenage single parents made up only three percent of all
single parents on welfare.

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GRAPH I1



  

GRAPH I2

 

  

GRAPH I3



  

GRAPH I4



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   The distribution is different for the unattached people and couples without children shown
in the two pies in the bottom half of the graph. The distribution of unattached persons on
welfare tends to be more even in the middle age groups compared to the distribution of families
with children on welfare. The distribution of couples without children is heavily weighted in
favour of older couples. Fifty-seven percent of the pie for the childless couples on welfare
was made up of couples where the head of the family was at least 50 years old. The two white
slices of the pie representing heads of cases 50 to 60 and 60 and older are huge compared to
the white slices of the pies for the two types of families with children. The distribution by age is roughly similar from province to province, as shown in
Table 8 on the next page. The grand total is the same as in Graph H, but the figures are
broken down by five-year rather than ten-year age groups. For the provinces combined, 76 percent of the cases were headed by people in their 20s,
30s or 40s. Only four percent of case heads were under 20 and only one percent were 65
or older. Seniors are unlikely to wind up on welfare because of the federal government's benefits
for seniors and the supplementary benefits for older people provided by some provincial and
territorial governments. Only 21,024 cases in March 1997 were headed by people 65 or older.
Presumably, some of these people were recent immigrants or refugees 65 or older who did
not qualify for the federal benefits paid to the vast majority of seniors.

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TABLE 8

WELFARE CASES BY AGE GROUP OF HEAD OF CASE, 95 PERCENT SAMPLE, MARCH 1997

  

<20

20-24

25-29

30-34

35-39

40-44

45-49

50-54

55-59

60-64

65+

All Ages

Newfoundland 2,003 6% 5,833 16% 5,158 14% 4,921 14% 4,454 12% 3,736 10% 3,059 9% 2,646 7% 2,269 6% 1,583 4% 224 1% 35,886 100%
Prince Edward Island 255 5% 605 11% 672 12% 757 13% 730 13% 592 11% 528 9% 421 7% 395 7% 310 6% 343 6% 5,614 100%
Nova Scotia Provincial 258 1% 3,118 10% 4,064 13% 4,544 15% 4,749 15% 3,847 12% 2,977 10% 2,718 9% 2,398 8% 1,985 6% 384 1% 31,042 100%
New Brunswick Data Not Available
Quebec 15,382 3% 48,899 10% 53,808 11% 65,259 14% 66,355 14% 58,292 12% 48,608 10% 42,738 9% 37,827 8% 29,237 6% 3,970 1% 470,375 100%
Ontario 22,932 4% 70,771 12% 78,411 14% 90,439 16% 87,779 15% 68,050 12% 49,404 9% 36,684 6% 31,048 5% 29,467 5% 12,809 2% 577,795 100%
Manitoba Provincial 1,133 4% 3,749 15% 3,658 14% 3,836 15% 3,633 14% 2,626 10% 2,026 8% 1,548 6% 1,367 5% 1,302 5% 549 2% 25,431 100%
Saskatchewan 2,626 7% 7,039 18% 6,051 15% 5,639 14% 4,882 12% 3,651 9% 2,847 7% 2,400 6% 2,110 5% 1,693 4% 186 0% 39,124 100%
Alberta 1,272 3% 5,138 13% 5,641 14% 6,285 16% 6,257 16% 4,670 12% 3,393 8% 2,827 7% 2,260 6% 1,819 5% 531 1% 40,093 100%
British Columbia 10,667 6% 25,221 13% 27,939 15% 29,651 16% 28,598 15% 22,410 12% 16,622 9% 11,483 6% 9,587 5% 7,036 4% 2,028 1% 191,242 100%
Totals 56,528 4% 170,373 12% 185,402 13% 221,331 15% 207,437 15% 167,874 12% 129,464 9% 103,465 7% 89,261 6% 74,433 5% 21,024 1% 1,146,602 100%

    

NOTE: The statistics for Nova Scotia and Manitoba do not include municipal welfare cases.


    


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Data on children were more difficult to extract from the welfare database, because
some provinces did not provide detailed breakdowns by age group for members of welfare families
under the age of 19. As an alternative, the National Council of Welfare did its own calcula-
tions using the data on family size. We assumed that there was one adult in each single-parent
family and two adults in each two-parent family and that all the other members of the families
were children. The results for March 1997 are shown in Table 9. Because the calculations are
estimates, the figures for each province and the totals were rounded to the nearest thousand.
Because of the rounding, some of the totals appear to be off by 1,000.

TABLE 9 ESTIMATED NUMBER OF CHILDREN ON WELFARE, 97 PERCENT SAMPLE, MARCH 1997

Children in Single-Parent Families

Children in Two-Parent Families

Totals

Newfoundland 12,000 13,000 25,000
Prince Edward Island 3,000 2,000 5,000
Nova Scotia Provincial 30,000 5,000 35,000
New Brunswick 17,000 10,000 27,000
Quebec 156,000 92,000 248,000
Ontario 386,000 158,000 544,000
Manitoba Provincial 22,000 2,000 24,000
Saskatchewan 24,000 10,000 34,000
Alberta 29,000 11,000 40,000
British Columbia 82,000 26,000 108,000
Totals 761,000 329,000 1,090,000

    

NOTE: The statistics for Nova Scotia and Manitoba do not include municipal welfare cases.


    


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The table shows an estimated 1,090,000 children on welfare in March 1997 - 761,000
children in single-parent families and 329,000 children in two-parent families. By way of comparison, there were a total of 1,481,000 children living in poverty or 20.9
percent of all children in 1996, when the last available figures were compiled by Statistics
Canada. Low-wage or "working poor" families with children account for most of the difference
between the number of children on welfare and the number of poor children. However, the welfare database is made up of families with children who were on welfare
during the month of March 1997, and who may not have been on welfare for the other 11
months of the year. The Statistics Canada figures represent families who were poor for the
entire year. Some of them were on welfare the entire year, while some of the parents were
in the paid labour force for all or most of the year. The number of children in two-parent families is deceptively low in Nova Scotia and
Manitoba because of the lack of data from municipal welfare programs. Employable couples
with children are normally on municipal rather than provincial welfare in the two provinces. Graph J on the next page shows the number of welfare families with one, two, three and
four or more children in single-parent families and two-parent families. The two pies in the
graph are proportional to show that the number of single-parent families on welfare is
larger than the number of couples with children on welfare. The numbers are estimates by the National Council of Welfare, so the figures have been
rounded to the nearest thousand. The graph shows 415,000 single-parent families with children
on welfare as of March 1997 and 153,000 two-parent families with children on welfare.
Detailed data were not available from New Brunswick, so the graph covers 95 percent of
the estimated national caseload. Nearly half of the single-parent families on welfare had only one child in the family, 31
percent had two children, 13 percent had three children, and only seven percent of the families
had four or more children. This flies in the face of the myth about single-parent mothers
having oodles of children in order to boost their welfare incomes.

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The pattern was much the same for two-parent families on welfare. Thirty-four percent
of the families had only one child, 35 percent had two children, 19 percent had three children,
and only 12 percent had four or more children.

GRAPH J


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