INC Yukon Territory Report Cards

Section 1: Experience of Poverty

Indicator Data
2024 Grade
2023 Grade
People Feeling Worse off Compared to Last Year
32.8%
INC
A
People Spending More than 30% of Income on Housing
53.4%
INC
F
People Having Trouble Accessing Health Care
17.7%
INC
B-
Government Support Recipients Who Say Rates Are Insufficient to Keep Up with Cost of Living
39.4%
INC
C+
Percent of Income Spent on Fixed Costs beyond Housing
58.5%
INC
A+
Overall
INC
INC

Section 2: Poverty Measures

Indicator Data
2024 Grade
2023 Grade
Poverty Rate (MBM)
8.8%
INC
F
Provincial Welfare as a percentage of the poverty line (Singles)
66%
INC
Provincial Disability Welfare as a percentage of the Poverty Line
78%
INC
Unemployment Rate
4.3%
C-
B
Food Insecurity Rate
21.2%
INC
D-
Overall
INC
D+

Section 3: Material Deprivation

Indicator Data
Grade
Inadequate standard of living
18.1%
INC
Severely Inadequate standard of living
13.8%
INC
Overall
INC

Section 4: Legislative Progress

Indicator Data
2024 Grade
2023 Grade
Legislative Progress
C
C
Overall
C
C
×

Despite the lowest poverty rate among the territories, Yukon grapples with high housing costs, affordability, and addictions challenges. While the region has seen significant wealth and prosperity, not everyone has shared in these benefits equally. Colonial legacies and extreme remoteness exacerbate this complexity. While the Yukon government has launched a new 5-year housing strategy, many initiatives introduced have been temporary and may not sustain lasting poverty reduction efforts.

According to the 2021 census, approximately 8.6 per cent of residents in the Yukon live in poverty. Overall, the Yukon is the most prosperous of the three territories, with poverty levels that are generally the same as or better than the national average. This situation is thanks to a growing population—the Yukon is now the largest territory, having surpassed the Northwest Territories, strong economic base, and generally supportive fiscal environment that is able to invest in quality public services. While important gaps in housing, health care, and infrastructure remain, in terms of poverty rates, the Yukon is closer to Canada as a whole than to the other territories.

 

Comparison with Other Territories
The poverty rates among families and individuals differ greatly among the three territories. For example, in the Yukon, the overall poverty rates are similar for both people who live alone and people who live with a spouse or partner. One exception to this is the rate of poverty among lone parents who are women. The poverty rate for this group in the Yukon is slightly below the rate for Canada as a whole. In the NWT, however, couples, single mothers, and people who live alone had slightly higher poverty rates than the national rates. In Nunavut, poverty rates were higher overall than the Canadian average, with significantly higher rates among single parents and people who live alone. Table 1. Poverty rate for select groups by Canada and the territories, 2021 Census[1]

Select groups

Canada

Yukon

N.W.T.

Nunavut

All residents

8.1

8.6

11.1

34.9

Couples with children

4

3.7

6.6

31

Couples without children

3.9

4

5

9.5

Single parents

14.1

14

22.4

54.7

Single mothers

19.7

14.2

23.1

55.4

Single people without children

21.5

20.7

22.1

39.3

For people in the Yukon who do not have children, there is a very stark contrast in the level of poverty between those who live alone (20.7 per cent) and those who live as a couple (4 per cent). Among single seniors, the poverty rate is 18.6 per cent compared to 3.1 per cent among seniors who live as a couple. This difference underscores the severe impact of the cost of living in northern and remote communities, even in places like the Yukon, where incomes are generally high.

 

The Challenges of Finding Work

In addition, the lack of economic diversity and reliance on resource extraction industries like mining and oil and gas contribute to limited employment opportunities in the North. Unemployment in Nunavut, for example, is 12%.

The North also has higher rates of substance abuse and mental health issues than the national average, which can lead to poverty as people struggle to maintain their employment and relationships. In fact, almost half of the respondents in the territories indicated that their mental health was impacting their ability to find work, work effectively, or maintain their finances.

 

Last-Resort Systems Still Not Enough

As more people in the North struggle, more are forced to rely on social supports. The proportion of EI recipients is 20% higher than the national average, and overall, at least 30% of the population in the North is receiving some kind of social support (12% higher than the national average). Unfortunately, as in much of the rest of the country, social assistance rates are not high enough to make a real difference. Nearly 2 in 5 recipients state that support amounts are not high enough to keep up with the cost of living. Many residents also struggle to navigate the tax system, which means there is likely a smaller uptake of much-needed benefits.


[1] Note that the Canada-wide rate reports poverty on the basis of the national MBM, while the results for the territories use the northern-specific MBM (MBM-N). If the MBM-N were applied as a concept to the rest of Canada, overall rates of poverty nationally would be higher because of the higher level of income that is assumed to be needed to pay for certain essentials.


Since the last election in 2021, the Yukon has been administered under a confidence and supply agreement (CASA) between the local Liberal and NDP parties. This agreement, which was subsequently renewed and enhanced in 2023, has established key commitments on housing, affordability, and health care, among other priorities.


Perhaps one of the most significant reforms put forward by the CASA has been the $100/month increase in social assistance rates, announced in the 2023 budget. This increase is meant to represent a first step toward a broader review of the adequacy of the territory’s income support programs. The review is ongoing, but the recently tabled 2024 budget did not specify when the results of the review would be announced.


Social assistance in the Yukon has traditionally been somewhat more generous than in other jurisdictions to account for higher living costs, but it is not overly generous. Although a single person with a disability, or disabilities, is likely living above the deep poverty line, they, along with most residents who rely on income support, are still well below what would be considered a living income, particularly in remote areas where the costs of living are significantly higher.


Thanks to the CASA and other priorities of the government, the Yukon has been an early leader in Canada in new investments to improve primary health care, including the adoption of a territory-wide dental care benefit for residents who do not have coverage. First implemented in last year’s budget, this benefit provides up to $1,300 in support.


The Yukon is one of the few jurisdictions in Canada that has no codified eviction protections for renters, which means that landlords can evict tenants without cause. In last year’s report, we recommended the territory adopt meaningful rent control measures. This recommendation is more urgent than ever. The CASA committed to eliminating no-cause eviction, undertaking a review of tenancy laws, and establishing rent increase guidelines to limit annual shelter cost increases to between 2 and 5 per cent and give renters more predictability and consistency. However, although the elimination of no-cause evictions was meant to be “immediate” under CASA, the change has been bundled into the broader review of tenancy law that has yet to be undertaken. 


We also recommended last year that the territory use its surpluses, which have been large in recent years, more strategically to reinvest in the core social and economic infrastructure needed to ensure prosperity is adequately shared. While the 2024 Yukon budget commits an additional $50 million to capital investments in housing, a portion of this comes from much higher federal transfers. The territory is still expected to yield a surplus of over $100 million. These funds could be the basis of a generational renewal in the territory, which in turn could help accelerate further growth.

Strategy and Accountability

1. Dedicate a significant portion of future surpluses to a Generations Fund.
In Progress
Achieved
No Progress
In Progress
No Progress
In Progress
Achieved

Set aside a modest amount of future surpluses for contingency and debt reduction and use the remaining funds to provide a recurring and growing source of revenue for investment in the construction of affordable housing, the expansion of broadband infrastructure, and the enhancement of poverty reduction policies, including investments in employment and training opportunities, as well as potential long-term enrichment of income support.

2. Develop a long-term capital plan to address critical infrastructure gaps in housing, food production, and broadband access
In Progress
Achieved
No Progress
In Progress
No Progress
In Progress
Achieved

Building on the recommendation for a Generations Fund, this plan should include a goal to reduce gaps between northern and southern communities in three key areas over the next five and ten years: housing, broadband, and local food production. It should be viewed as a combined capital plan that is jointly funded by both the territorial and federal governments

Cost of Living

3. Index the Yukon Supplementary Allowance for people with disabilities who receive social assistance 
In Progress
Achieved
No Progress
In Progress
No Progress
In Progress
Achieved

While most social assistance supports are indexed in the Yukon, one critical exception is the Yukon Supplementary Allowance for people with disabilities who receive social assistance. As federal enhancements to the GST credit are likely to end later this year, Yukon should begin indexing the Supplementary Allowance and also provide an additional $50/month in recognition of the recent surge in food and shelter prices and the likelihood that inflation will remain elevated in Northern Canada for the foreseeable future. This would be in addition to the recent increase in social assistance rates that were announced in 2023 as part of CASA.

Affordable Housing

4. Adopt meaningful rent control and tenant protections
In Progress
In Progress
In Progress

More than a year has passed since the territorial government announced a commitment to “immediately” end no-cause eviction, but the legislation to enable it has yet to be finalized. The government must make this commitment its chief priority and follow through on it. Changes to enhance tenant protections and implement a meaningful rent control guideline are also necessary but should be seen as a second step in this process.