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Study from UCalgary compares provincial social assistance data over 12 years




CALGARY AB - Social assistance is part of a social safety net that “catches” individuals who have lost their jobs. The number of social assistance cases in Alberta is currently higher than what we might expect given the level of employment, according to new data released today by The School of Public Policy. In the latest Social Policy Trends report from Ron Kneebone and Margarita Wilkins, monthly data is examined on the number of employed persons per 100 adults aged 15-64 years, versus the number of social assistance caseloads in the same age bracket, from April 2005 to April 2017. The data represents social assistance cases defined by the provincial government as “expected to work (ETW)” cases. Such cases are established for those who are either employable persons temporarily out of work, or adults whose market income is insufficient to meet their basic needs.

In October 2008, at the height of Alberta’s economic boom, nearly 81of every 100 adults in Alberta were employed and there was just over one social assistance case for every 100 individuals. The recent fall in energy prices has since reduced employment and increase the number of social assistance caseloads. In July 2016, there were 74 employed individuals with 1.7 cases of social assistance per 100 adults. Since July 2016, although there has been some recovery in employment, there has not been the same fall in social assistance caseloads as we have come to expect from previous economic recoveries.

According to co-author Ron Kneebone “Based on eleven years of observations from April 2005 to July 2016, we would expect the employment growth that has occurred since July 2016 to have resulted in a much larger fall in social assistance caseloads than we have actually observed. In fact, rather than falling, the number of social assistance caseloads has increased. This movement suggests there may have occurred significant changes in Alberta’s labour market compared to the past, and a different norm is being shaped with more social assistance support caseloads per working Albertan.”

The report can be found online at




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