A Snapshot of Family Diversity in Canada (February 2018)

Download A Snapshot of Family Diversity in Canada (February 2018).

For more than 50 years, the Vanier Institute of the Family has monitored, studied and discussed trends in families and family life in Canada. From the beginning, the evidence has consistently made one thing clear: there is no single story to tell, because families are as diverse as the people who comprise them.

This has always been the case, whether one examines family structures, family identities, family living arrangements, family lifestyles, family experiences or whether one looks at the individual traits of family members, such as their ethnocultural background, immigration status, sexual orientation or their diverse abilities.

Building on our recent infographic, Family Diversity in Canada (2016 Census Update), our new Statistical Snapshot publication provides an expanded and more detailed portrait of modern families in Canada, as well as some of the trends that have shaped our vibrant and evolving family landscape over the years. Based on current data and trend analysis, this overview shows that diversity is, was and will continue to be a key characteristic of family life for generations to come – a reality that contributes to Canada’s dynamic and evolving society.

Highlights include:

  • According to Statistics Canada, there were 9.8 million Census families living across Canada in 2016.
  • 66% of families in Canada include a married couple, 18% are living common-law and 16% are lone-parent families – diverse family structures that continuously evolve.
  • Among Canada’s provinces, people in Quebec stand out with regard to couple/relationship formation, with a greater share living common-law than the rest of Canada (40% vs. 16%, respectively) and fewer married couples (60% vs. 84%, respectively) in 2016.
  • In 2016, 1.7 million people in Canada reported having an Aboriginal identity: 58% First Nations, 35% Métis, 3.9% Inuk (Inuit), 1.4% other Aboriginal identity and 1.3% with more than one Aboriginal identity.
  • In 2016, 22% of people in Canada reported that they were born outside the country – up from 16% in 1961.
  • In 2016, more than 1 in 5 people in Canada (22%) reported belonging to a visible minority group, 3 in 10 of whom were born in Canada.
  • 73,000 same-sex couples were counted in the 2016 Census, 12% of whom are raising children.
  • In 2016, there were nearly 404,000 multi-generational households in Canada – the fastest-growing household type since 2001 (+38%).
  • In 2011, 22% of Inuk (Inuit) grandparents, 14% of First Nations grandparents and 5% of Métis grandparents lived with their grandchildren, compared with 3.9% of among non-Indigenous grandparents.
  • In 2014, 1 in 5 Canadians aged 25 to 64 reported living with at least one disability. Disability rates were higher for women (23%) than men (18%).
  • More than one-quarter (27%) of Canadians surveyed in 2014 said religion is “very important” in their lives.
  • One-quarter of Canadians reported “no religious affiliation” in the 2011 Census (most recent data available), up from 17% in 2001.

Download A Snapshot of Family Diversity in Canada (February 2018).

This bilingual resource is a perpetual publication, and will be updated periodically as new data emerges (older versions are available upon request). Sign up for our monthly e-newsletter to find out about updates, as well as other news about publications, projects and initiatives from the Vanier Institute.

Learn more about family diversity in Canada:

Infographic: Family Diversity in Canada (2016 Census Update)
What’s in a Name? Defining Family in a Diverse Society
Infographic: Modern Couples in Canada (2016 Census Update)
Timeline: 50 Years of Families in Canada
A Snapshot of Military and Veteran Families in Canada
Polyamory in Canada: Research on an Emerging Family Structure
Strength in Diversity: Positive Impacts of Children with Disabilities
Beyond the “Ideal”: Beryl Plumptre and the Vanier Institute’s Definition of “Family”
Sharing a Roof: Multi-generational Homes in Canada (2016 Census Update)
Facts and Stats: Indigenous Families in Canada
Living Apart, Together: LAT Couples in Canada


Published on February 6, 2018

Modern Family Finances: Income in Canada (January 2018)

Much like families themselves, family finances in Canada is a topic characterized by diversity, complexity and perpetual evolution. Family income is no exception. 2016 Census data shows that households across Canada receive income from a variety of sources, and these economic arrangements change over time as families adapt and react to social, economic, cultural and environmental forces.

The complex and multi-faceted nature of family finances can make it a difficult topic to fully comprehend. No measure of family finances exists in isolation, and all are interconnected: if a family’s income is too low, then it may be impossible for them to build savings; if expenses are too high, debt may be just around the corner; if debt is too high, it can reduce family wealth – and so on. However, much can be learned about the whole of finances by examining the topic through a family lens.

Every family household has its own unique constellation of income sources that they manage to fulfill their obligations at home and in their communities. These arrangements typically aren’t static – they evolve throughout the life cycle as family circumstances change, along with the resources available to them.

To explore this topic in further detail, the Vanier Institute has published Modern Family Finances: Income in Canada (January 2018).

Highlights include:

  • In 2015, the total median household income in Canada was approximately $70,300 before taxes ($61,300 after taxes), and $34,200 before taxes (just under $30,900 after taxes) for individuals.
  • Household income included revenue from a variety of sources, including employment income (approximately 71% of Canadians received employment income), investments (30%), CPP/QPP benefits (23%), OAS/GIS benefits (18%), the Canada Child Tax Benefit (11%), Employment Insurance benefits (9%), social assistance (5%) and more.
  • Incomes are lower than the national average and low-income rates are higher for women; First Nations, Inuk (Inuit) and Métis people; immigrants (particularly for recent immigrants and non-permanent residents); visible minorities; and persons living with disabilities.
  • In 2015, nearly one-third (32%) of married or common-law couples in Canada received “fairly equal” incomes, although, on average, women earned an estimated $0.87 for every dollar earned by men.
  • Debt is consuming a smaller share of household income than in previous decades, with the share of income devoted to servicing the interest on household debt falling from 10.8% in 1991 to 6.4% in 2015.
  • One in five (19.8%) seniors in Canada (1.1M) reported that they worked at some point in 2015 – nearly twice the rate recorded in 1995 (10.1%).
  • Many Canadians of all ages plan to keep working to ensure sufficient income as seniors, with more than one-third (36%) reporting in 2014 that ongoing employment earnings are a part of their financial retirement plan.

Income in Canada is a part of the Vanier Institute’s Modern Family Finances series, which addresses particular topics such as income and expenditures; savings and debt; and wealth and net worth. Subsequent editions in this series will focus on unique experiences such as family finances among military and Veteran families, families on the move, and families living with disability.

This bilingual resource will be updated periodically as new data emerges. Sign up for our monthly e-newsletter to find out about updates, as well as other news about publications, projects and initiatives from the Vanier Institute.

Download Modern Family Finances: Income in Canada from the Vanier Institute of the Family.

Learn more about family finances in Canada:


Published on January 30, 2018

Supporting Dads: Paternity Leave and Benefits in Canada

Sara MacNaull

Note: Originally published on November 7, 2016. With the recent changes to parental leave and EI Special Benefits in Canada, we’re highlighting this piece again since it provides context and data related to the ongoing discussion surrounding parental leave, work and families in Canada. Learn more in Webinar Content: Changes to EI Special Benefits.


When a new baby joins the family, family members often shift their focus from their multiple responsibilities to care for their children. Those first few days, weeks and months are a special time for the new parents and a critical formative period for the baby. However, taking a leave from work, activities, school and volunteer commitments requires flexibility and creative planning between family members and their employers.

Dads embracing paternity leave – where it’s offered

During the 2015 federal election, the newly elected federal government committed to extending parental benefits from 12 to 18 months. More recently, the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour stated that she is particularly interested in setting aside time for dads, by making paternity leave a part of the changes to parental leave through the Employment Insurance (EI) program. At present time, paternity benefits are only available to dads residing in Quebec.

In Quebec, paternity benefits were first introduced in 2006 through the Quebec Parental Insurance Plan (QPIP), which has encouraged fathers to take a leave from work to focus on caring for a newborn child. Under QPIP, which offers more parental and paternity benefits and a greater degree of flexibility, a growing share of fathers have taken leave, and the program currently has an overall participation rate of 86.6% for eligible fathers.

According to Statistics Canada, 27.1% of recent fathers claimed or intended to take parental leave in 2014. However, this number is greatly skewed by the differences between fathers in Quebec and those in the rest of Canada. For fathers in Quebec, 78.3% claimed or intended to claim parental leave (up from 27.8% in 2005 before QPIP was implemented), compared with 9.4% outside of Quebec.

Since fathers in Quebec have embraced parental and paternity leave, many families and policy makers in other provinces have been discussing the possibility of extending paternity benefits to dads across Canada. The exact details of the government’s commitments are in the planning stage, and families are wondering whether the new plans will take a similar form to those in Quebec.

In Quebec, eligible fathers have access to 3 weeks of benefits at 75% of average weekly insurable earnings or 5 weeks at 70% of average insurable weekly earnings, up to a yearly maximum of $71,500. Average weekly insurable earnings consist of an employee’s basic, regular pay before taxes, not including any bonuses, commissions or tips.

Research shows parental leave can have a significant impact on father involvement

In a recent study comparing parental leave in Quebec with the rest of Canada, author Ankita Patnaik found that when given the option, most men embrace paternity leave. She found that before QPIP, Quebec fathers took an average 2 weeks of leave. After the parental leave policy was reformed, the average Quebec father took the full five weeks available under the paternity leave program. Patnaik’s study also found that in Quebec, there was a “large and persistent impact” on gender dynamics in the 3-year period following parental leave. Fathers remained more likely to do housework, while mothers were more likely to engage in paid work.

In the rest of Canada, maternity and parental benefits are calculated at 55% of a parent’s average insurable earnings, up to a maximum of $50,800 as of January 1, 2016. Eligible fathers may access a portion of the parental benefits by sharing with their partner (either consecutively or concurrently), as benefits are not dad-specific. Parental leave consists of 35 weeks of benefits, which is available to eligible parents. The benefits can be taken by one parent exclusively or shared among both parents, in whatever combination makes sense for their family (e.g. 25 consecutive weeks for one parent and 10 consecutive weeks for the other).

Many employers also stepping up to support dads

From the employer’s point of view, the introduction of paternity benefits will likely mean that a growing share of new dads will take a leave following the birth or adoption of a child, and may be on leave for a longer period of time. Fathers may also chose to use accumulated vacation, take advantage of their organization’s paternity leave program or share parental benefits with their partners.

If paternity benefits are introduced, it may affect human resources policies with regards to leave and benefits. Some employers offer additional support to new parents in the form of top-up benefits – a predetermined percentage of the employee’s salary as a supplement to the 55% received by EI. Employers may offer employment to temporary staff to replace employees on leave and revise human resources policies to explicitly include “fathers.”

One of the organizations in Canada that has introduced support to new dads is multinational professional services firm Deloitte. They currently offer two options for new fathers: 3 weeks of paid time off at 100% of their salary or a 6-week top-up of their EI benefits to 100% of their salary. The Deloitte Dads Network is also planning a round table in 2016 to create a survival guide for use following the birth or adoption of a child – a time in which support from the employer and colleagues can be valuable and contribute to the success of the transition to and from leave.

Becoming a parent and bringing home a new baby is an unforgettable and life-changing event for any family. Planning for a leave and ensuring financial security requires an understanding of government benefits, employer top-ups and workplace policies and programs. This is an exciting and anxious time for any growing family. Eligible families who access benefits and supports ensure the new baby is surrounded by a parent’s love and attention from day one.


Sara MacNaull is the Program Director at the Vanier Institute of the Family and is currently working toward earning the Work–Life Certified Professional designation.

Published on January 24, 2018


Suggested Reading

Dads Play a Greater Role at Home: Family Life Benefits

Families and Work in Canada by Nora Spinks and Nathan Battams

Modern Fatherhood: Paternal Involvement and Family Relationships by Ian DeGeer, Humberto Carolo and Todd Minerson


Infographic: Canada’s Families on the Farm

Family farms have played a significant role in Canada’s history, both in terms of the contributions that agriculture has provided in the development of local and provincial economies, and with regard to the role farming has played in shaping community and familial identities. Farming has a strong impact on the lives of families involved in the practice, as it is a unique experience that ties together notions of home, work, culture and kinship.

The evolution of farm families in Canada reflects some of the broader trends that are shaping the “family landscape” across the country, such as population aging, smaller families, a growing share of women in the labour force, the increased use of technology at work and a diversification of family income sources.

To explore Canada’s farm families, the Vanier Institute of the Family has published an infographic that features data from the 2016 Census of Agriculture.

Highlights include:

  • Canada was home to more than 193,000 farms in 2016, down 5.9% from 2011.
  • Canada was home to nearly 102,000 farm families in 2013, and the number of farm families decreased every year over the prior decade.
  • The average age of farm operators increased from 47.5 years in 1991 to 55 years in 2016.
  • The number of farm families with two family members rose from 43% in 2003 to 51% in 2013, while the share with five or more fell from 19% to 14%.
  • 8.4% of all farms across Canada in 2016 reported having a written succession plan, and a family member was identified as the successor for 96% of these farms.
  • In 2015, 57% of operators aged 60 and over were on farms that reported the use of technology, compared with 81% for those under the age of 40.


Download the Canada’s Families on the Farm infographic from the Vanier Institute of the Family.

Learn more in “Families on the Farm: A Portrait of Generations and Migrant Workers in Canada,” a chapter prepared by the Vanier Institute for Deep Roots, published by the United Nations as part the International Year of Family Farming.


Published on January 16, 2018

Modern Family Finances: Seniors in Canada

Canada’s population is rapidly aging, which means a growing number of seniors across the country are managing household finances in an evolving economic climate. In this context, many are choosing to remain in – or return to – the paid labour market to manage their financial responsibilities, while others focus on other diverse income sources to meet their needs.

As seniors and their families adapt their financial management strategies and their aspirations in response to this ever-changing environment, they in turn are reshaping workplaces, retirement and the economy at large. To explore the relationship between seniors and family finances, we’ve published Modern Family Finances: Seniors in Canada, which brings together statistics from a variety of sources about seniors and their economic well-being, including data about employment, income, retirement and debt among this age group.

Highlights include:

  • In 2016, the average retirement age in Canada was 63.6 years – a slow but steady increase from a low of 60.9 years in 1998.
  • More than one-third (36%) of Canadians in the labour force say that ongoing employment earnings are a part of their financial retirement plan.
  • In 2015, 3 in 10 seniors in Canada reported having employment income, with significantly higher rates among Inuit seniors (46%).
  • In 2015, nearly 1 in 7 seniors lived with low income – nearly four times the rate in 1995. Rates were higher among senior women (17%, vs. 12% among senior men), recent immigrant seniors (22.2%) and seniors reporting an Aboriginal identity (21.5%).
  • In 2015, nearly 1 in 5 seniors in Canada had “unaffordable” shelter costs, spending more than 30% of average total monthly income on housing.
  • Nearly 4 in 10 of surveyed seniors in Canada (37%) say they plan on leaving an inheritance to a grandchild.

This bilingual resource will be updated periodically as new data emerges. Sign up for our monthly e-newsletter to find out about updates, as well as other news about publications, projects and initiatives from the Vanier Institute.


Download Modern Family Finances: Seniors in Canada from the Vanier Institute of the Family.


Learn more about modern family finances in Canada:


Published on November 30, 2017