Poverty Reduction Strategy (2021 Annual Report)
Read the second annual report on the province’s Poverty Reduction Strategy. Learn about how the government is responding to address the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, progress on key strategy initiatives and an update on the strategy’s target and indicators.
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Supporting Ontarians, particularly our most vulnerable, is a guiding principle for our government.
Our government has put in place several initiatives aimed at reducing poverty levels across Ontario. We are working across ministries, and across all levels of government to ensure the right programs and supports are in place for people when and where they need them.
COVID‑19 has certainly added layers of complexity and urgency to our Poverty Reduction Strategy but our work to modernize the system continues to rollout in tandem with the delivery of emergency supports.
We have invested more than $1 billion dollars in the Social Services Relief Fund, which expanded access to emergency assistance and helped municipalities and Indigenous program administrators support local needs, including emergency shelters and food banks to address growing demands. These pandemic supports are in addition to the more than $8.3 billion in social assistance payments issued in 2020-21.
We know that the best poverty reduction strategy is creating the economic conditions for more people to find good-paying jobs. We are modernizing and renewing social assistance programs to help more people move towards employment and independence. To meet the changing needs of the job market, we have made investments to help get Ontarians the training they need to help tackle the province’s labour shortage and connect people to jobs. We are making progress on the Skilled Trades Strategy and the Ontario Jobs Training Tax Credit. We also expanded the Second Career program to serve more people on social assistance and are continuing to integrate social assistance employment services with Employment Ontario to make the pathway to employment easier.
We recognize that COVID‑19 has had a disproportionate impact on low-wage workers, youth, women, Indigenous persons, Black and other racialized individuals, which is why we are building programming to support these groups.
Under the leadership of Premier Ford, we raised the general minimum wage, effective January 1, 2022. We launched Ontario’s Task Force on Women and the Economy focusing on supporting women as they enter and re-enter the workforce, supporting women’s entrepreneurship and removing barriers for women to enter fields in which they are underrepresented, including skilled trades and science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.
Through the Black Youth Action Plan, we are also investing $47 million over four years to increase opportunities for Black youth across the province. We partnered with Chiefs of Ontario to create a First Nations Economic Growth and Prosperity Table, and we increased investment in community-led mental health and addictions supports in Indigenous communities.
The work to modernize social assistance, support vulnerable individuals and provide opportunities for personal development and advancement continues and we look forward to the positive results of these initiatives.
We cannot do this important work alone. Our success will rely on continued cooperation from community partners and Indigenous organizations, as well as actions at all levels of government.
Together we are building an Ontario where people have the opportunity to reach their full potential, participate in their communities and share in the future prosperity of our province.
Dr. Merrilee Fullerton
Minister of Children, Community and Social Services
Together with the support and hard work of Indigenous partners, community organizations, municipalities, private sector and other partners, Ontarians continued to show strength and resilience in the face of the COVID‑19 pandemic that continued throughout 2021.
Prior to the start of COVID‑19 in 2019, 10.9% of Ontarians were living in poverty (2019). The pandemic has affected economic growth, the job market, and how community services are delivered. These impacts have affected the progress on the Poverty Reduction Strategy’s target to increase the number of people exiting social assistance to employment. While overall more people exited social assistance than joined over the course of 2021, the number of cases in which recipients exited to employment declined to 20,899, compared to 26,928 in the previous year
As the province continues to address the challenges of the pandemic, it remains critical that we get people the supports and help they need to succeed and thrive in an evolving economy.
Throughout 2021, the province has taken action to achieve the goals of the province’s third Poverty Reduction Strategy, Building a Strong Foundation for Success: Reducing Poverty in Ontario (2020-2025). This action includes raising the general minimum wage, wage enhancements for personal support workers and direct support workers, improving access to training and education to prepare people for job opportunities, and transforming government services through child welfare redesign, employment services transformation and social assistance renewal. The second annual report highlights progress made on strategy initiatives over the past year and provides an update on the target and indicators.
Building a Strong Foundation for Success: Reducing Poverty in Ontario (2020-2025)
The Government of Ontario released its third Poverty Reduction Strategy in December 2020. The five-year strategy was developed with valuable input from the public and stakeholders and sets out the government’s plan for addressing poverty throughout the province.
The strategy is built on four pillars:
- Encouraging job creation and connecting people to employment
- Connecting people with the right supports and services
- Making life more affordable and building financial resiliency
- Accelerating action and driving progress
The government is committed to working with all levels of government, Indigenous partners, the private sector, not-for-profit agencies and community groups to implement the strategy and achieve its objectives.
Responding to the COVID‑19 pandemic
The economic impacts of the COVID‑19 pandemic have particularly affected people in poverty or at risk of being in poverty. Low-wage workers, youth, women, Indigenous, Black and other racialized workers were disproportionately impacted by job losses. COVID‑19 public health measures necessitated changes to the way services were delivered and impacted access to essential supports relied on by Ontario’s vulnerable communities. Throughout this unprecedented pandemic, the people of Ontario stayed strong and resilient while supported by the work of the province, municipalities, community organizations, Indigenous partners and others. Alongside the tremendous efforts made by our partners, the Ontario government continues to mitigate the spread of the virus, protect workers and their families, and support the province’s economy.
From the beginning of the pandemic, the government’s top priority has been to protect the health and safety of the people of Ontario. The government launched the Social Services Relief Fund (SSRF) in March 2020 to address the needs of the province’s most vulnerable during the COVID‑19 pandemic and expanded access to emergency assistance. Over $1 billion has been invested to help municipalities, and Indigenous program partners continue to deliver critical services, keep people safe and create longer-term housing solutions. SSRF funding has been used to respond to COVID‐19 cases in shelter settings and to ensure the continuity of supports for vulnerable households, including food banks, rent assistance programs, protection of residents and staff in homeless shelters and the creation of longer-term housing solutions.
The government’s targeted efforts to enable access to testing and vaccines helps to keep Ontario’s most vulnerable communities safe and protected. These efforts include the High Priority Communities Strategy and the prioritization of testing for high-risk settings such as hospitals, long-term care, retirement homes, and other congregate living settings. An additional investment of $373 million in October 2021 provided an extension of the temporary wage enhancements for 158,000 personal support workers and direct support workers, including those who deliver publicly funded personal or direct support services in home and community care, long-term care, public hospitals, and social services.
COVID‑19 Worker Income Protection Benefit
To help workers stay safe and get vaccinated without worrying about losing pay, the government introduced paid sick days through the Ontario COVID‑19 Worker Income Protection Benefit. As of March 4, 2022, approximately 350,000 people have benefited, and the total amount of money claimed was $130.7 million.
Making progress on the strategy pillars
The government has continued to make progress on the four pillars outlined in the Poverty Reduction Strategy.
Pillar one: encouraging job creation and connecting people to employment
The impact of the pandemic on different sectors underscores the importance of Ontarians having the skills to adapt and succeed in a changing economy. Initiatives in the strategy focus on removing barriers to accessing employment across the province and helping people build the right foundation to find and keep jobs.
Transforming Ontario’s employment services
To help people find a job, it is important that support systems are easy to use and provide the help that is needed at the right time. The province has been making progress on transforming Ontario’s employment services system to make it more responsive to the needs of job seekers, businesses and communities through its Employment Services Transformation initiative. This initiative focuses on integrating social assistance employment services into Employment Ontario.
Starting with prototype catchment areas in Peel, Hamilton–Niagara and Muskoka–Kawarthas that have been fully integrated as of January 2021, the province has been working to better integrate the system of supports to help job seekers, including those on Ontario Works or the Ontario Disability Support Program. The new approach includes the establishment of Service System Managers, who oversee the planning, design and delivery of employment services in each catchment area. Building on the success of the three prototype catchment areas, the province announced the ongoing roll-out of Employment Services Transformation in 2021, starting with York, Halton, Stratford–Bruce Peninsula, and Kingston–Pembroke in 2022.
Supporting small businesses
Small businesses play an important role in Ontario’s labour market and economic future. Throughout the pandemic, the province has delivered several programs to support Ontario businesses from the impacts of COVID‑19 and necessary public health measures. For example, in 2021 Ontario delivered the Ontario Small Business Support Grant providing $3 billion in urgent and unprecedented targeted COVID‑19 support to over 110,000 small businesses across the province. Through the grant, eligible small businesses were provided between $20,000 and $40,000 in support. Whether a small business employs a couple of close family members or dozens of people from a community, supports like these help to ensure Ontarians can bridge the gap to recovery.
Equipping people with the skills and training they need
The Poverty Reduction Strategy recognizes that people require the right skills, education and training to access opportunities in the current labour market. The Skills Development Fund (SDF) supports innovative projects that address challenges to hiring, training or retaining workers, including apprentices, during the pandemic. The first round of the fund has supported almost 150 projects and aims to help 260,000 workers and job seekers. The government is investing an additional $83 million for a second round of funding, bringing the total investment to over $200 million.
The government is expanding the Ontario Student Assistance Program (OSAP) to include over 1,500 micro-credential programs. Through this initiative, the province is ensuring loans and grants are available to learners looking to rapidly upskill and reskill for the in-demand jobs of today and tomorrow. Offered by post-secondary institutions across Ontario, micro-credential programs are short in duration, can be completed online, and are often designed for the specific needs of employers and jobs. By helping the people of Ontario pay for these programs, the government is continuing to support students to upskill, reskill and rejoin the workforce.
Skills Development Fund example
Aboriginal Labour Force Development Circle (a non-profit organization) received $493,080.00 in the first round of the Skills Development Fund to work with 12 First Nations in Ontario. The training partners include Infrastructure Health and Safety, Uens Pole Line, Push For Life, and more. This is a job readiness project that will prepare the participants with entry level and pre-apprenticeship opportunities with various power and construction companies. The training is for 18 weeks.
The government convened Ontario’s Task Force on Women and the Economy, which met throughout the summer of 2021, with a mandate to provide advice to help address the unique and disproportionate economic barriers women face. Informed by the task force’s work, Ontario has taken immediate steps to address the economic challenges facing women. A key example is the government’s commitment of an additional $500,000 in 2021–22 to the Investing in Women’s Futures program which provides employment readiness and violence prevention programming to socially and economically marginalized women so they can develop the in-demand skills they need to participate in the workforce.
To further help workers get the training they need, the government introduced a temporary Ontario Jobs Training Tax Credit for 2021. The credit provides up to $2,000 in relief for 50% of a person’s 2021 eligible training expenses, such as tuition at an eligible Canadian institution and fees paid to certain bodies in respect of an occupational examination in 2021. The government extended the Ontario Jobs Training Tax Credit to 2022. The 2022 credit extension will provide an estimated $275 million in support to about 240,000 people, or $1,150, on average. This extension will help individuals continue to upgrade their skills, switch careers, or transition back to the labour force.
Connecting people to opportunities
Some people who face barriers to finding a job, including people affected by the COVID‑19 pandemic, may require assistance accessing new opportunities. The Second Career program provides financial support to laid-off and unemployed workers. In 2021, the government made improvements to the program to help unemployed workers experience a faster application process. Since revamping Second Career to prioritize those laid off during the pandemic, the number of workers accessing the program increased by 62% as of the end of 2021. Building on these changes, the proposed program expansion will improve access for those whose employment barriers may have been made worse by the pandemic, including young people, newcomers, people on social assistance and people with disabilities.
As part of the 2021 Ontario Fall Economic Outlook and Fiscal Review, the government announced in November an investment of $5 million over two years to introduce a new Racialized and Indigenous Support for Entrepreneurs (RAISE) grant. This funding will provide women entrepreneurs and Indigenous, Black and other racialized people with support to start and grow a business. RAISE will provide access to business development training, culturally responsive support services and access to a one-time $10,000 grant. RAISE addresses the need for targeted supports that respond to the systemic barriers faced by women, Indigenous, Black and other racialized entrepreneurs.
Supporting student success
Supporting student achievement, well-being and graduation promotes improved transition to further education and better prepares students for success in the workplace.
In 2021–22, targeted funding includes $550 million for the Learning Opportunities Grant, within the Grants for Student Needs (GSN) that provides funding for a range of programs that assist all students, including adult learners and students who face barriers to achieving their full potential for achievement and well-being. The GSN also includes dedicated funding for student success staffing roles at the school board and school levels.
Further, the government funds job skills programs, including Dual Credits, Specialist High Skills Major and the Ontario Youth Apprenticeship Program. Together these investments have contributed to improvement in Ontario’s five-year high school graduation rate, from 68% in 2004 to 88.1% in 2020.
The Graduation Coach Program for Black Students was first launched in 2019 in eight school boards and has expanded to 17 school boards in the 2021–22 school year. This program, developed in collaboration with Black community and education partners, is helping to create inclusive spaces that will help to dismantle systemic barriers, eliminate disparities and close the achievement gap for Black students. Funding provides intensive, culturally responsive support to Black students by hiring Graduation Coaches with lived experience and connections to Ontario’s diverse Black communities who offer direct supports and mentorship to Black students. Coaches also provide advice to school leaders to inform system change at the school and board levels, so that Black students feel welcome, have a sense of belonging and a better school experience. For the 2021-22 school year, the province has increased investment for the program from approximately $1.6 million to $2.9 million, along with an additional $566,010 in one-time to help with the impact of the COVID‑19 pandemic.
Period poverty impacts the most vulnerable students and has been exacerbated by increased financial pressures as a result of the COVID‑19 pandemic. Students who cannot afford menstrual products may experience a higher rate of absenteeism from school, challenges to engage fully in the classroom, and negative health effects, such as infections and toxic shock syndrome. On October 8, 2021, Ontario launched a new initiative to provide free menstrual products for schools which will support the distribution of six million free menstrual products per year to school boards. Additionally, 1,200 product dispensers will be provided to facilitate the distribution within schools. This three-year initiative will remove barriers and improve access to menstrual products.
Pillar two: connecting people with the right supports and services
Individuals and families need access to supports that improve health and well-being to help them move onto a path of education, training, employment and participation in their community. Initiatives in the Poverty Reduction Strategy aim to transform systems that provide those vital supports.
Advancing action on mental health and addictions
Mental health and addictions services and supports are essential in supporting people to enter, re-enter, or remain in the labour market. In March 2020, the government launched Roadmap to Wellness: A Plan to Build Ontario's Mental Health and Addictions System, a strategy aimed at increasing access to consistent, high-quality mental health and addictions services across the province. In 2021, key investments included:
- Over $80 million to support student mental health for the 2021–22 school year, which is four times the investments made in 2017-18.
- $32.7 million a year in new funding for addictions services including services to support people with opioid addiction, and $2.9 million to enhance and expand the Substance Abuse Program for African and Caribbean Canadian Youth (SAPACCY) at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) and seven new satellite locations across Ontario.
- $11.1 million a year in new funding for eating disorders to support a wide range of specialized eating disorder services for children, youth, and adults, across the spectrum of care, including specialized, intensive inpatient and day treatment services to fill major gaps in care for people with severe needs and specialized outpatient services for people with moderate to severe needs in areas where there are long waitlists or no services available.
Strengthening the social assistance system
In 2021, the government laid out its vision to build a person-centred social assistance system that will get people back to work and help contribute to the province’s economic progress. To realize this vision, we will realign provincial and municipal functions to reduce administrative burden and free up staff so they have more time to connect people to the supports they need locally. The province will take on more back-office administrative functions (e.g., social assistance applications and payments) and the municipalities will take on the role of connecting people with the right supports to help people find stability and get people back to work.
These changes will transform the system so that it provides better support for clients, allows local office staff to focus on results for people rather than paperwork, and helps people get back to work and contribute to building a thriving Ontario economy. For example, a prototype to streamline and automate the initial eligibility of Ontario Works applications has led to a steady shift in the focus of administrative work toward post-grant activity and stability support. MyBenefits — the online service for social assistance clients — has also been helping to reduce the administrative burden for staff as client usage increases. In 2021, there was a 345% increase in social assistance recipients using this tool.
Efforts like these modernize the social assistance system, improve the experience for applicants and clients, and free up time for caseworkers to focus on supporting people in addressing barriers to employment — like child care and housing. The province and municipalities are working together to enhance the system and meet client needs more effectively.
Improving access to housing
Access to streamlined housing services and programs can be difficult for those with unique needs, especially those also experiencing poverty. Safe and affordable housing is critical for those in poverty and at risk of being in poverty. The government made key investments and introduced new initiatives to improve access to housing, including:
- Investments of approximately $1.3 billion in 2021–22 to help sustain, repair and grow community housing and address homelessness in Ontario.
- An additional $13 million over three years to help people with developmental disabilities access housing in the community, including increased funding for Housing Coordinators who work to help people with developmental disabilities and their families navigate housing options in their communities. The initiative also provides funding for the Adult Protective Service Worker (APSW) program which will help people to live more independently in the community.
- Investments of approximately $18.5 million over three years to support survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking by increasing access to safe and affordable housing, employment assistance and child care through the Transitional and Housing Support Program. The funding will also enhance access to services at five on-reserve Indigenous shelter and family healing programs.
- Investing nearly $2 million to create the Veterans’ Village for military Veterans experiencing homelessness in partnership with Homes for Heroes Foundation and the City of Kingston.
- Directing Service Managers to implement a by-name list, which is a real-time list of people experiencing homelessness and information about their needs. As of January 1, 2022, all 47 Service Managers have a by-name list in place to help understand homelessness in their communities and connect people with housing and supports that better respond to their needs.
Social Services Relief Fund
The government provided over $1 billion through the Social Services Relief Fund in flexible funding to municipal service managers and Indigenous program administrators to help keep people housed or improve access to housing, including adding to rent banks and creating approximately 1,200 new supportive housing units.
- Investing nearly $464 million annually in the new Homelessness Prevention Program, starting in 2022-23, to streamline and strengthen Ontario’s housing and homelessness support services, including creating new supportive housing and emergency shelters, and conducting community outreach by levering by-name lists.
- Investing $30 million to the Indigenous Supportive Housing Program, starting 2022-23, to help deliver culturally-appropriate supportive housing for Indigenous people.
These investments and initiatives will alleviate long-term pressures on the province’s emergency shelter system, improve access to important supports that help people gain independence and employment, and help those in need can achieve long-term housing stability.
Redesigning the child welfare system
The government has been working towards its vision for a redesigned child welfare system where youth and families receive services that are community-based, high quality, culturally affirming, with a focus on prevention and early intervention. The multi-year Child Welfare Redesign (CWR) strategy was developed with input from youth, families, caregivers, First Nations, Inuit and Métis partners, urban Indigenous service providers, lawyers, community organizations, frontline workers and child welfare sector leaders. Since the launch of the CWR strategy, the province has begun working closely with sector partners and stakeholders to begin shifting investments in support of this vision, including:
- Over $25 million in funding to support improved access and availability of culturally affirming prevention and child welfare services and supports for Indigenous children, youth and families to support well-being, including mental health.
- Over $4.5 million to support the development and implementation of community-led initiatives that contribute to the goals of redesign.
- $1.5 million annually to enhance community-based prevention and well-being initiatives for Black children, youth and families.
Pillar three: making life more affordable and building financial resiliency
As the cost of living rises, the government is working to put more money into people’s pockets. Initiatives under this pillar aim to empower individuals and families, especially those in poverty, afford everyday living expenses.
Improving affordability for Ontarians
As of January 1, 2022, the Ontario government raised the general minimum wage to $15 per hour from $14.35. The increase to the minimum wage is part of the government’s broader effort to support, protect and attract workers, and make Ontario the top place to live, work and raise a family.
As announced in the 2021 Budget, the government provided a 20% enhancement to the Childcare Access and Relief from Expenses (CARE) tax credit to help parents with the cost of child care and return to the workforce. This enhancement increased support from up to $1,250 to $1,500 for the 2021 taxation year families, which provides about $75 million in additional support for the child care expenses of over 300,000 families. The CARE tax credit gives eligible families the flexibility to choose the child care option that works best for them, including child care provided in centres, homes and camps.
Ontario appointed a new Housing Affordability Task Force in 2021 and published a report from the Task Force in February 2022 that outlined recommendations on additional measures to address market housing supply and affordability. In addition, in January our Premier and the Minister of Housing hosted the Ontario Housing Affordability Summit with big city mayors and regional chairs, as well as a Rural Roundtable on Housing Affordability. These engagements provide important opportunities for Ontario to continue to work with housing and municipal partners to increase housing affordability in the province.
In November 2021, the government passed the Working for Workers Act, 2021, which helps to support vulnerable workers, sparks innovation, and supports businesses in challenging times. The Working for Workers Act protects those in precarious working conditions by establishing mandatory licensing of recruiters and temporary help agencies, with harsh penalties for violators. These changes help to remove barriers for newcomers, so that more people who are trained internationally can find jobs and practice in the professions they are trained in. In February 2022, the Ontario government introduced legislative changes to the Working for Workers Act, 2022 that would establish foundational rights and protections for digital platform workers who provide ride-share, delivery, or courier services and mandate larger employers to establish and share policies on how they are monitoring electronic devices.
Pillar four: accelerating action and driving progress
The government is working to improve the accessibility and connectedness of services for the people of Ontario through innovative initiatives that leverage partnerships, technology and data.
Collaborating with community partners to address barriers and create opportunity
The Black Youth Action Plan (BYAP) works to eliminate systemic and racial disparities experienced by Black youth in Ontario by increasing opportunities for Black children, youth and families across the province. BYAP programs support over 10,800 Black children, youth and their families annually in education, employment, and in conflict with the law. Programs and initiatives focus on culturally focused parenting and mentorship, supporting wellness with preventative measures, and community outreach and collaboration. The BYAP helps to ensure Black youth and their families have a network of support and services to improve outcomes and well-being.
In 2020, the government announced it was committing an additional $60 million to BYAP over three years. This investment sustains existing programming and expands the plan to include a dedicated economic empowerment stream. This new stream of programming will provide the skills youth need to overcome social and economic barriers and achieve success, including completing their education, enhancing training and enabling them to participate in a future-oriented and talent-driven workforce.
Youth Opportunities Fund
Through the Youth Opportunities Fund (YOF), a province-wide initiative administered by the Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF), the government provides grants and capacity-building supports to local, community-driven, community-serving and youth-led projects that improve outcomes for youth facing multiple barriers with a focus on Black and Indigenous communities. In the 2020-21 fiscal year, the ministry invested nearly $18 million in the Youth Opportunities Fund, with more than $13 million going directly to 36 community projects. This investment served more than 8,731 beneficiaries and created 90 full-time positions of which 86 were for youth.
The Premier’s Council on Equality of Opportunity (PCEO), launched in 2020, is an advisory group of 18 intergenerational and cross-sector members with expertise and lived experiences on the economic and social barriers facing young people, especially those from marginalized communities. The PCEO engages directly with young people in communities across the province and provides government with advice on how to help youth succeed in the rapidly changing economy and overcome the impacts of the COVID‑19 pandemic.
Expanding access to high-speed internet
Access to reliable high-speed internet is critical for accessing vital services like health care, education and employment, while increasing economic and entrepreneurial opportunities for the people of Ontario. In the 2021 Budget, the Province committed a historic $2.8 billion to make high-speed internet accessible in all regions of the province by the end of 2025, increasing Ontario’s overall investment in broadband to nearly $4 billion over six years beginning in 2019-20.
On March 7, 2022, the Ontario government introduced the proposed Getting Ontario Connected Act, 2022 to help bring access to reliable high-speed internet to underserved and unserved communities sooner. If passed, the changes would help remove barriers, duplication and delays, making it easier and faster to build high-speed internet infrastructure across the province. This new proposed legislation builds on the Supporting Broadband and Infrastructure Expansion Act, 2021 and the Building Broadband Faster Act, 2021 to accelerate the deployment of high-speed internet infrastructure.
Through shovel ready projects and new investments, Ontario has committed $900 million in more than 180 broadband, cellular and satellite projects, bringing faster internet access to 375,000 homes and businesses across the province and significantly improving cellular connectivity throughout Eastern Ontario. This will help Ontario meet its commitment to provide high-speed internet access to every community by the end of 2025.
Creating a new digital and data strategy
Ontario is committed to closing the digital divide. On April 30, 2021, the government released its first Digital and Data Strategy, Building a Digital Ontario, which outlines how Ontario is working towards equipping people, businesses and organizations with the skills and supports they need to participate, work, learn and succeed in a digital world. With over two dozen new and established initiatives, the strategy aims to connect more Ontarians with access to reliable high-speed internet, increase access to reskilling and retraining opportunities for digitally-enabled jobs, increase the number of businesses and organizations who have access to tech savvy workers, and leverage data to support economic and social growth across the province. The Digital and Data Strategy is one way the government is working to increase success in the digital economy and reduce the gaps in access to digital connectivity, technology, and training.
Improving demographic data gathering
The government continues to work to improve the use of voluntary demographic data to support evidence-based decision-making and enhance public accountability. In 2021-22, the Ministry of Education is investing nearly $3 million to support Ontario’s publicly funded school boards to collect, analyze and use voluntary student demographic data for the purpose of identifying and addressing disparities in students’ experience and outcomes. This data enables school boards to gain a clearer understanding of who Ontario students are, to more precisely apply resources to support student success. Efforts like these help the province to more effectively meet the needs of Ontario’s diverse communities.
Achieving Indigenous prosperity and well-being
To help ensure First Nations and urban Indigenous communities have the necessary tools to respond to the impacts of the pandemic, the Ministry of Indigenous Affairs provided $15 million in 2020–21 and $4 million in 2021–22 to support First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities and urban Indigenous organizations. Indigenous communities directed this funding to a variety of COVID‑19 pandemic support responses and services, including implementing programs that address food insecurity and providing culturally appropriate and trauma-informed mental health and addiction programming supports. Further, $50 million was invested in partnership with the Ministry of Health to support community‐led vaccination efforts and enhanced public health measures in First Nations and urban Indigenous communities.
In June 2020, the government announced the creation of a new Indigenous Women’s Advisory Council and in 2021 extended the mandate to 2025. The Council includes Indigenous women and 2SLGBTQQIA+ violence prevention experts across the province, representing a diversity of First Nation, Métis, Inuit and urban Indigenous communities. Council members are mandated to provide input on violence prevention issues such as human trafficking and child, youth and family well-being. They worked closely with the province to help develop Pathways to Safety: Ontario’s Strategy in Response to the Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, which was released in May 2021.
On May 28, 2021, the Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation in Kamloops, B.C. announced that it had confirmed over 200 potential burial sites at the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School. Indian Residential Schools and the abuse and deaths of children within these schools form part of a long-standing, targeted government strategy to detach Indigenous people from their familial, cultural and territorial connections. These efforts have resulted in long-term inter-generational trauma whose impacts have included high levels of poverty, homelessness, income insecurity, mental health and addictions and other socio-economic challenges. However, Indigenous communities, organizations and individuals have worked hard to support community well-being and demonstrated many successes along the way. Ontario is working across government and with Indigenous partners to advance reconciliation while promoting Indigenous-led initiatives and building upon the strengths of Indigenous peoples, families and communities following the discoveries of children buried at residential schools over the past year.
The government is investing more than $36 million in community-led mental health and addictions supports in Indigenous communities across the province. $20 million of this funding will help ensure culturally appropriate and trauma-informed supports are readily available for residential school survivors and their families. Yearly funding of $16 million will support the implementation of the Roadmap to Wellness and will be devoted to initiatives such as funding for culturally adapted child and youth mental health services, Indigenous-specific victim (healing) services, and development of an Indigenous-driven opioid strategy to address the increase in opioid use and opioid related deaths.
In May 2021, Ontario announced funding for the Chiefs of Ontario to support the creation of a First Nations Economic Growth and Prosperity Table to help drive economic advancement and improve the well-being of Indigenous communities. Over the next two years, the Prosperity Table will enable relationships with surrounding economies, industries and business partners and contribute to a greater understanding and cooperation between First Nation leaders and the government. It will also complement other economic development work being undertaken by the province.
To help develop employment opportunities for Indigenous populations and support business, the government launched the Wealth Creation Table in October 2021. This group is a technical table comprising First Nation, Métis and Inuit business experts across diverse industries. Members are providing practical input and feedback on economic policy initiatives related to priority sectors, including entrepreneurship, access to capital, procurement and skills training.
Indigenous partners are best positioned to understand and leverage opportunities for their communities. The government will continue to work with Indigenous communities and organizations to advance Indigenous-led approaches to economic development, prosperity, health and well-being that respect the diversity of Indigenous communities and cultures.
The Poverty Reduction Strategy sets out a suite of indicators to measure the strategy’s progress and identify areas for improvement. The following section provides updated information for each indicator and a brief update on its progress (see Appendix for full indicator definitions and sources).
As the indicators monitor change across different dimensions, they draw data from different sources. As a result, the availability of data varies across the indicators, and the indicators have different baseline years and timeframes for when updates can be released. All updates are based on the most recent data available.
The strategy sets a target of getting more social assistance recipients into meaningful employment and achieving financial stability. The government will provide the right supports and services with the goal of increasing the number of social assistance recipients moving to employment each year from 36,000 in 2019 to 60,000 by 2024.
Indicator: Exits to employment from social assistance
|Exits to employment from social assistance||Baseline: 2019||2020||2021|
|Total number of exits||35,971||26,928||20,899|
The economic challenges posed by the COVID‑19 pandemic persisted through the year and continued to impede progress on the Poverty Reduction Strategy’s target to transition people from social assistance to meaningful employment. Overall, more people exited social assistance than joined over the course of 2021, but the number of cases that exited to employment declined to 20,899 from 26,928 in the previous year. The province will continue to focus on economic growth, creating jobs, connecting people to supports and services so that individuals and families can move toward greater financial independence.
Employment, skills and training indicators
The following indicators measure the employment rate, how many jobs were created, the extent to which people on social assistance are becoming employed (while remaining eligible for social assistance) and training results.
Indicator: Employment rate for priority groups, 15 to 64 years old
|Employment rate by population group||Baseline: 2019||2020||2021|
|Youth (aged 15–24)||54.2%||45.8%||50.9%|
|Indigenous persons off-reserve||62.5%||59.5%||63.1%|
The employment rate for the general population and priority groups increased in 2021 compared to the previous year but remained below the pre-pandemic rate, except for Indigenous persons living off-reserve who posted a slightly higher rate above the pre-pandemic level. The overall employment rate increased by 3.1 percentage points, with youth recording the highest increase of 5.1 percentage points.
Indicator: Full-time and part-time jobs created, aged 15 and older
|Jobs created||Baseline: 2019||2020||2021|
|Total number of net jobs created||203,600||-355,300||344,800|
|Number of net full-time jobs created||154,600||-202,900||273,400|
|Number of net part-time jobs created||49,000||-152,300||71,300|
|Number of net full-time and part-time jobs created — Females||89,500||-202,600||181,200|
|Number of net full-time and part-time jobs created — Indigenous persons off-reserve||5,900||-6,400||16,200|
Ontario’s economy showed signs of recovery from the effects of the COVID‑19 pandemic by posting increases in employment for seven consecutive months between June and December 2021, ending the year with a net gain of 344,800 jobs. Full-time employment contributed most of the job gains in Ontario with 273,400 jobs, representing 79% of total employment gains. Females accounted for most of the full-time and overall job gains contributing 53% of overall job gains and 60% of full-time job gains. In 2020, females suffered a greater share of total job losses compared to their share of total job gains in 2021 (57% of job losses vs. 53% of job gains). Employment among Indigenous persons living off-reserve also increased, posting net employment gains of 16,200 jobs in 2021, an improvement from the previous year’s loss of 6,400 jobs.
Indicator: Completion of skills or work experience related Employment Ontario (EO) interventions
|Number of completed skills or work experience related interventions by EO program participants||Baseline: 2019–20||2020–21|
|Total number of completed skills/work experience related interventions||62,232||43,471|
Through Employment Ontario, the province helps workers and job seekers get training, skills and experience to meet their goals. In 2021, the number of skills or work experience related interventions completed by Employment Ontario program participants fell by 30% or 18,761 fewer interventions than the baseline year. Beginning in March 2020, the COVID‑19 pandemic and subsequent public health measures resulted in a substantial decrease in client intake and exit activity for Employment Ontario (EO) programs across the province.
Indicator: Percentage of Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) cases with employment earnings
|Percentage of cases with employment earnings by program||Baseline: 2019||2020||2021|
In 2021, the percentage share of Ontario Works cases reporting employment earnings continued to decrease to 8.6% from 9.0% in the previous year. However, the rate for Ontario Disability Support Program cases increased slightly to 8.2% from 8.1%.
The following indicators measure progress on high school graduation rates and credit accumulation that keep students on track to graduate with their peers, as well as post-secondary graduation rates.
Indicator: Graduation rate (high school)
|Graduation rate||Baseline: 2018||2019||2020|
Ontario’s high school graduation rate slightly increased in 2020 with 88.1% of students graduating within five years of starting Grade 9.
Indicator: Percentage of students accumulating credits that will keep them on track to graduate with their peers
|Grade 9 (8 or more credits)||86%||87%|
|Grade 10 (16 or more credits)||79%||81%|
|Grade 11 (23 or more credits)||83%||84%|
Compared to the baseline period (2019), greater percentage of students were on track to graduate with their peers across Grades 9, 10 and 11 in 2020.
Indicator: Graduation rate (universities)
|Graduation rate||Baseline: 2018–19||2019–20|
|Graduation rate (universities)||76.9%||77.1%|
The 2019–20 graduation rate for universities is based on students who started an undergraduate degree in 2012 and who graduated from 2013 to 2019. The graduation rate in 2019–20 was slightly higher than the previous year.
Indicator: Graduation rate (colleges)
|Graduation rate||Baseline: 2018–19 reporting period||2019–20 reporting period|
|Graduation rate (colleges)||70.2%||70.9%|
The 2018-19 graduation rate for colleges is based on students who started one-year programs in 2016-17, two-year programs in 2014-15, three-year programs in 2012-13 and four-year programs in 2011-12, and who had graduated by 2017-18.
The 2019-20 graduation rate for colleges is based on students who started one-year programs in 2017-18, two-year programs in 2015-16, three-year programs in 2013-14 and four-year programs in 2012-13, and who had graduated by 2018-19. The graduation rate for the 2019-20 reporting period was slightly above that of the baseline rate.
Moving toward increased financial independence
The following indicators measure the province’s progress on supporting individuals and families in poverty to move forward on the path to financial independence. These indicators include how long it takes for people to become employed or exit social assistance once they have first started receiving social assistance, the rate of people who end up returning to Ontario Works within one year of exiting, the share of the total Ontario population on social assistance, whether low income households can access community housing programs and the share of Ontario households in core housing need.
Indicator: Time to become employed or exit social assistance
|Time to become employed or exit social assistance within the first year on assistance by program and by population group of primary applicant (months)||Baseline: 2018||2019||2020|
|All cases - both programs||8||no change||no change|
|Ontario Works||8||no change||no change|
|ODSP||9||no change||no change|
|Cases where the primary applicant is a youth (aged 15 – 24) - both programs||8||no change||no change|
|Ontario Works||7||no change||no change|
|ODSP||10||no change||no change|
|Cases where the primary applicant is female - both programs||8||no change||no change|
|Ontario Works||8||no change||no change|
|ODSP||9||no change||no change|
This indicator measures the average number of months it takes for new social assistance recipients to either report employment earnings or exit social assistance in their first year on assistance. The 2020 data covers those who started receiving social assistance in 2020. New social assistance recipients in 2020 stayed on social assistance for just as long as those in 2019, before exiting or reporting employment earnings. This was the case for Ontario Works and ODSP recipients as well as for youth (aged 15–24) and women on social assistance.
Indicator: Rate of returns to Ontario Works (OW) within a year of leaving social assistance
|Rate of returns to Ontario Works within a year of leaving social assistance by population group of primary applicants||Baseline: 2018||2019||2020|
|Cases where the primary applicant is a youth (aged 15–24)||39%||34%||31%|
|Cases where the primary applicant is female||32%||28%||27%|
This measure looks at the percentage of people exiting Ontario Works who return within one year. Among cases that exited Ontario Works from October 2020– to December 2020, 27% had returned to Ontario Works within twelve months of exiting. This is one percentage point below the rate of return among cases that exited Ontario Works between October 2019 and December 2019, indicating an improvement. Similarly, the rate of return to Ontario Works decreased by one percentage point for female primary applicants, in particular, and by three percentage points for youth primary applicants, in particular, that exited in 2020, compared to those that exited in 2019.
Indicator: Share of the population on social assistance
|Share of the population on social assistance||Baseline: 2019||2020||2021|
The share of population on social assistance saw a second consecutive decline from the baseline rate in 2019, decreasing from 6.7% in 2020 to 6.1% in 2021. The decline was driven by the sustained fall in overall social assistance caseload between January and September 2021. Although the federal government’s Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) ended in October 2020, Ontarians were able to transition to new federal recovery benefits introduced later in 2020 including the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB), Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB) and the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefits (CRCB) all of which were open for most of 2021.
Indicator: Percentage of low-income households assisted in community housing programs
|Percentage of low-income households assisted in community housing programs||Baseline: 2018–19||2019–20||2020–21|
There was an increase in the proportion of low-income households who were assisted in community housing programs in 2020–21.
Indicator: Percentage of households in core housing need
|Percentage of households in core housing need||2016 (Baseline)|
This indicator measures households living in housing that is inadequate, unaffordable or unsuitable and who need to spend 30% or more of their income to pay the median rent of alternative local housing that is acceptable. As this indicator is calculated using Census data, an update will be provided following the release of the 2021 Census data on core housing need.
Core housing need by population
|Percentage of the population in core housing need by population group||Baseline: 2016|
|Youth (aged 15–24)||14.1%|
|Indigenous persons off-reserve||18.8%|
This indicator measures core housing need by the percentage of all persons rather than household units in core housing need. Updated data will be provided following the release of the 2021 Census data.
The following two indicators will be tracked to measure the province’s progress on reducing the number of people living in low income with a focus on the following priority populations: youth (aged 15–24), women and Indigenous persons off-reserve of all ages.
Indicator: Poverty Rate based on Market Basket Measure (MBM)
|Percentage of the population in poverty by population group||Baseline: 2018||2019|
|Youth (aged 15–24)||15.0%||12.0%|
|Indigenous persons off-reserve||14.4%||15.5%|
The poverty rate measures the percentage of people in low income, based on the Market Basket Measure (MBM), which establishes income poverty threshold based on the cost of a basket of goods and services that individuals and families require to meet their basic needs and achieve a modest standard of living. The basket includes items such as healthy food, clothing, appropriate shelter, transportation, and other necessities. Individuals and families with disposable income less than the applicable threshold based on family size and region of residence, are considered to be in poverty.
The most recent data available shows an improvement in Ontario’s poverty rate between 2018 and 2019 for the general population. Among priority groups, women and Indigenous people living off-reserve recorded an increase in poverty rates, while the youth experienced an improvement of about three percentage points.
Recent data that captures the impact of the COVID‑19 pandemic on poverty rates will be available later in 2022 and will be reported in subsequent annual reports.
Indicator: Deep Poverty Rate (MBM)
|Percentage of the population in deep poverty by population group||Baseline: 2018||2019|
|Youth (aged 15–24)||9.7%||5.7%|
|Indigenous persons off-reserve||7.0%||6.3%|
Deep poverty rate refers to the percentage of individuals with disposable family incomes below 75% of the MBM threshold for their family size and region. Between 2018 and 2019, the share of people in deep income poverty declined for the general population and across priority groups except for women who recorded the same rate as in 2018. Updated data on deep poverty rates will be available later in 2022.
The government remains committed to addressing the economic impact of the COVID‑19 pandemic, driving economic recovery, supporting those who are most vulnerable in the province and building a stronger Ontario. The investments made in the Poverty Reduction Strategy will help to transform Ontario’s social and economic systems to support the recovery and help all Ontarians succeed.
Appendix: Target and indicator definitions
Strategy Target: Get more social assistance recipients into meaningful employment and financial stability. The government will provide the right supports and services with the goal of increasing the number of social assistance recipients moving to employment each year from 36,000 in 2019 to 60,000 by 2024.
|Exits to employment from social assistance||Number of cases that exited Ontario Works (OW) and Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) to employment at least once within the calendar year.||Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services|
|Employment rate for priority groups, 15 to 64 years old||Percentage of individuals from priority groups (youth, women, Indigenous peoples), aged 15 to 64, who are employed.|
This indicator can be broken down by gender, age and Indigenous identity. While Black and other racialized persons are a priority group for this strategy, data is not currently available.
|Statistics Canada, Labour Force Survey|
|Full-time and part-time jobs created, ages 15 and older||Total number of net jobs created.|
Number of net full-time jobs created.
Number of net part-time jobs created.
These figures represent the annual change in employment (e.g., between 2020 and 2021.).
|Statistics Canada, Labour Force Survey|
|Completion of skills or work experience related Employment Ontario (EO) interventions||Number of completed skills or work experience related interventions, by EO program participants; Apprenticeship program is not included in the measure.||Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development|
|Percentage of Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) cases with employment earnings||Percentage of Ontario Works and ODSP cases reporting employment earnings (while remaining eligible for social assistance).||Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services|
|Graduation rate (high school)||Percentage of students who receive an Ontario Secondary School Diploma (OSSD) within five years of starting Grade 9.||Ministry of Education|
|Percentage of students accumulating credits that will keep them on track to graduate with their peers||Grade 9: Percentage of students who accumulated 8 or more credits after one year of secondary school out of the total number of students who completed one year of secondary school.|
Grade 10: Percentage of students who accumulated 16 or more credits after two years of secondary school out of the total number of students who completed two years of secondary school.
Grade 11: Percentage of students who accumulated 23 or more credits after three years of out of the total number of students who completed three years of secondary school.
|Ministry of Education|
|Graduation rate (universities)||Proportion of all new, full-time, year one undergraduate university students of bachelors (first-entry), or first professional (second-entry) degree programs who commenced their study in a given fall term and graduated from the same institution within seven years.||Ministry of Colleges and Universities|
|Graduation rate (colleges)||Percentage of full-time students – including international students and students enrolled in public college-private partnership programs – who entered a program of instruction in a particular enrolment reporting period and graduated within a specific period of time (200% of program completion timeframe for diploma and certificate programs and 175% for degrees).||Ministry of Colleges and Universities|
|Time to become employed or exit social assistance||Average time between entering Ontario Works and ODSP and leaving or becoming employed (while remaining eligible for assistance), within the first year on assistance.||Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services|
|Rate of returns to Ontario Works (OW) within a year of leaving social assistance||Percentage of cases that exited Ontario Works (between October – December 2019) that returned within one year (12 months) immediately following the month they left Ontario Works.||Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services|
|Share of the population on social assistance||Percentage of the province’s population receiving social assistance.||Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services|
|Percentage of low-income households assisted in community housing programs||Number of households assisted across community housing programs, as a proportion of all Ontario households below the low-income measure (LIM) threshold.||Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing|
|Percentage of households in core housing need||Percentage of households living in housing that is inadequate, unaffordable or unsuitable and who would need to spend 30% or more of total before-tax income to pay the median rent of alternative local housing that is acceptable.||Statistics Canada, Census|
|Poverty rate based on Market Basket Measure (MBM)||The poverty rate reports the percentage of individuals in low income. The MBM threshold is the disposable income required for a family to purchase a specific basket of goods and services defined as the minimum needed to meet a basic standard of living (2018-base).|
A family is in low income when its disposable income is below the poverty threshold defined for its family size and region.
|Statistics Canada, Canadian Income Survey|
|Deep poverty rate (MBM)||Percentage of individuals with disposable family incomes below 75% of the MBM threshold.||Statistics Canada, Canadian Income Survey|
Indicators under development:
- Youth in care on track to graduate: Percentage of students in care who accumulated eight or more credits by the end of Grade 9. This indicator is still under development and will be reported in subsequent annual reports.
- Employment or enrolment into further education after participation in integrated employment services: Percentage of integrated employment services clients in areas covered by Employment Services Transformation who identify as employed or in education or training during three-month follow-up after exit from program.
- footnote Back to paragraph Due to refinements in the methodology for this measure, the previously reported numbers have been updated. The baseline (2019) annual exits to employment increased from 35,240 to 35,971, and from 26,183 to 26,928 in 2020.
- footnote Back to paragraph Due to refinements in the methodology for this measure, the previously reported numbers have been updated. The baseline (2019) annual exits to employment increased from 35,240 to 35,971, and from 26,183 to 26,928 in 2020.
- footnote Back to paragraph The 2019 baseline figures for the employment rate and full-time and part-time jobs indicators have been updated from those provided in the 2020 –25 Poverty Reduction Strategy to reflect revised data from Statistics Canada, following the rebasing of the Labour Force Survey (LFS). Beginning in January 2021, LFS data will be calculated using 2016 Census population data instead of 2011 Census data.
- footnote Back to paragraph Clients can access a variety of skills training interventions through Employment Ontario. This could include such interventions as literacy and basic skills training directly delivered by EO providers or the ability to access financial support to pay for training offered by training delivery providers such as colleges or private career colleagues. Employment Ontario can also support clients in gaining valuable work experience through job placements and matches. Financial supports are available for clients and employers to provide any additional assistance required to help clients be job ready or provide workplace supports.
- footnote Back to paragraph This indicator is based on tracking a cohort of cases that began to receive social assistance within a calendar year (including those that were returning to social assistance within the calendar year, after having exited social assistance before). Reasons for exiting social assistance other than employment include failure to provide verification, voluntary withdrawal and income report not received.
- footnote Back to paragraph Note: The indicator is based on tracking a cohort of cases that exited Ontario Works during the last quarter of the reporting calendar year. The baseline and 2019 figures for this indicator have been updated to reflect a refinement to the methodology, which now counts cases that returned to Ontario Works “within the year (or 12 months) immediately following the month they left OW”, rather than “within the calendar year after they left Ontario Works”, as was previously reported.
- footnote Back to paragraph Since the release of the 2020 PRS Report, the result for 2019–20 was recalculated based on revised program data. This table reflects the adjusted value for 2019–20