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Research report

Harsh Reality for Single-Parent Families

While in our societies single-parent families are more likely to live in poverty than two-parent families, the proportion of these families living below the poverty level varies widely between countries and between Canadian provinces. Our research team wanted to take a look at the countries at the head of the class in the fight against poverty in single-parent families, in the hope of drawing some lessons for Quebec.

Poverty in single-parent families is a structural problem requiring State intervention.

Using an international database, we began by examining the performance of various countries. The social-democratic Nordic countries clearly stand out, followed by so-called "corporatist" countries such as France and Germany, with liberal countries like the United Kingdom and Canada at the back of the pack. While less pronounced, differences can also be seen within Canada, with top honours going to Quebec.

What are the government policies that have produced such a wide range of results? We performed a more in-depth study of France, Holland, the UK and Sweden, as well as the four most heavily populated Canadian provinces.

Our study leads to four principal lessons. First of all, poverty in single-parent families is a structural problem requiring State intervention. Secondly, Quebec has shown a remarkable success in recent years with the reduction of the poverty rate among two-parent families, and to a lesser extent among single-parent families. Thirdly, the countries with the best performances have introduced policies directed at all families, not only single-parent families.

Finally, the winning formulas encourage the integration of single mothers into the workforce through the implementation of measures for conciliating work and family, such as low-cost daycare; by increasing the incentive to work through Work Premium programs and pay equity initiatives; and by matching these transfer policies to the families that need them.


Main researcher: Marie-France Raynault, Université de Montréal

Original title: Pauvreté et monoparentalité : ce que peuvent nous apprendre les comparaisons internationales et interprovinciales croisant situations sociales et politiques publiques

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