What Is a Middle Class Income in Canada in April 2024?

WRITTEN BY Dylan Callaghan | UPDATED ON: March 31, 2024

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In Canada, the term middle class transcends the mere notion of an income group—it also represents a widely recognized living standard that affords families and individuals a comfortable life with fiscal stability.

Middle-class income is typically characterized by the ability to afford homeownership, a vehicle, education, and discretionary spending on vacations and leisure activities. Most think of it as the "average income" in Canada.

The income ranges that define the middle class can vary significantly across different regions and provinces in Canada, influenced by local economies and the cost of living

For example, it will be much more expensive to live in Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal, or Calgary than it would be in Winnipeg. Despite these variations, there are generally accepted income figures used to define this economic group.

What is considered middle-class income in Canada?

A middle-class income bracket commonly starts slightly below the median after-tax household income and extends to well above it. In Canada, if you make 75% to 200% of the median after-tax household income, you're typically considered middle class. 

This range fluctuates in relation to where you live. For example, you may be considered middle-class, earning anywhere from $44,000 to $110,000 in Nova Scotia. However, that number jumps to $58,000-$150,000 in Alberta. This is simply because the median household income in Alberta is a lot higher than in Nova Scotia.

There are generally 3 accepted criteria for the middle class. Here's a brief breakdown:

  • Lower Middle Class: Typically 75% to just below median income
  • Middle Class: Around 75% to 200% of median income
  • Upper Middle Class: Above 200% of median income

Again, it is important to recognize that these ranges are after-tax, meaning the actual gross income would be higher before taxes and deductions are applied.

Statistics Canada's after-tax median income provides a foundational benchmark for establishing these ranges, with thresholds adjusted to reflect disparities between different Canadian localities. 

What exactly does middle class mean?

The middle class in Canada consists of individuals and households that fall between the upper class and those at the poverty line, and it is generally defined by income levels. 

Statistically, households with an after-tax income ranging between 75% and 200% of the nation's median income are considered middle class. 

This demographic represents a substantial portion of the Canadian population and is characterized by income stability, home ownership, and the ability to save money.

How the middle class has changed over the years

There is a continual debate as to whether or not the middle class is shrinking here in Canada and the United States.

There has been relatively little wage growth over the last few decades, at least in relation to the rising costs of living, and as a result, many dispute whether the salary ranges given today as a middle-class earner even allow those to have a middle-class lifestyle.

The middle class has changed dramatically over the years due to various factors. Globalization, technological advancements, and shifts in the labor market have changed the cost of living, income distribution, government policy, and wealth accumulation.

The hottest debate about the middle class in Canada is that most middle-class Canadians cannot afford a home, and thus, middle-class income shouldn't really be defined as such anymore. Some would even go as far as to say it is hardly a living wage, highlighting the severe income inequality in Canada.

What are the middle-class incomes in each province?

I compiled some data to determine what a middle-class income would be in each province. The numbers utilize income figures from 2023, and I plan to update them when new data is released.

Again, these are after-tax incomes, not gross incomes.

Alberta (Median: $77,700)

  • Lower Bound: $58,275
  • Upper Bound: $155,400

Ontario (Median: $70,100)

  • Lower Bound: $52,575
  • Upper Bound: $140,200

Saskatchewan (Median: $67,700)

  • Lower Bound: $50,775
  • Upper Bound: $135,400

British Columbia (Median: $67,500)

  • Lower Bound: $50,625
  • Upper Bound: $135,000

Manitoba (Median: $63,000)

  • Lower Bound: $47,250
  • Upper Bound: $126,000

Quebec (Median: $59,700)

  • Lower Bound: $44,775
  • Upper Bound: $119,400

Prince Edward Island (Median: $59,400)

  • Lower Bound: $44,550
  • Upper Bound: $118,800

Newfoundland and Labrador (Median: $59,300)

  • Lower Bound: $44,475
  • Upper Bound: $118,600

Nova Scotia (Median: $56,900)

  • Lower Bound: $42,675
  • Upper Bound: $113,800

New Brunswick (Median: $56,900)

  • Lower Bound: $42,675
  • Upper Bound: $113,800

Northwest Territories (Median: $93,500):

  • Lower Bound: $70,125
  • Upper Bound: $187,000

Nunavut (Median: $89,300):

  • Lower Bound: $66,975 
  • Upper Bound: $178,600 

Yukon (Median: $73,200):

  • Lower Bound: $54,900
  • Upper Bound: $146,400

As you can see, the vast majority of upper-middle-class income earners exceed six figures in Canada, regardless of the province. That raises another question, one we'll discuss next.

Is 100k a good salary in Canada?

Although the rapid increase in the cost of living has deteriorated the spending power of a $100,000 salary, it's still what I would consider a "good" salary. When we account for income taxes, a $100,000 salary will still be above the average household net income. 

If you have multiple 6 figure income earners in your home, you will likely find yourself in the upper-middle or even upper-class households.

In the context of the middle class, which ranges from $53,359 to $137,000 with slight variations depending on your province, a $100,000 salary situates a person well within this bracket.

How many Canadians earn over $100,000 a year?

I managed to pull some data on six-figure earners from a few years ago. 3.1 million Canadians currently make over $100,000 a year, representing about 8.1 percent of Canadians.

Considering it is a struggle to save for a down payment or even pay a mortgage on a $100,000 salary in Canada when only 8 out of 100 people make that salary, it paints a grim picture of the economic landscape in Canada. Many Canadians with these salaries are having to pick up additional side hustles to get by.

What is considered the median income in Canada?

The median income is the point at which half of Canadian households earn more and the other half earn less. According to the latest data, the median after-tax income stands at approximately $68,400 for the year 2021, the last year for which I could find any data.

When considering individual components of income, it's important to recognize that wages make up the bulk. 

However, other elements like investments, savings, and retirement income contribute significantly to the overall financial well-being of Canadians. Here's a breakdown of potential income sources for the median Canadian:

  • Employment Income: Primary source of income for most Canadians.
  • Investments: May include dividends, capital gains, and interest from various investment vehicles.
  • Savings: Interest earned from bank accounts and similar products.
  • Retirement Income: Pensions, Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSPs), and government benefits like Old Age Security (OAS) play crucial roles for seniors.

It's noteworthy that while the median income provides a snapshot of financial health, individual circumstances can vary widely. Retirement income, for example, is largely influenced by factors such as the amount contributed to RRSPs and the timing of pension and OAS payouts.

What net worth would be considered upper middle class?

There is no true definition of the upper middle class when it comes to net worth. However, the general consensus is that to be considered upper middle class, you'd need a net worth of at least $500,000. On the upper end of the ranges, you'd probably be sitting at a seven-figure net worth.

A Canadian household's investments, savings, and Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) holdings are significant components of their net worth. Typically, these households accumulate greater assets as they approach retirement, aiming for financial comfort.

Furthermore, these households may receive Old Age Security (OAS) payments and have other retirement income streams planned.

It's difficult to pin down a precise net worth figure for the upper middle class without a consensus among financial analysts. However, certain indicators from studies and financial reviews suggest the following brackets:

Upper-middle-class net worth brackets:

  • Minimum Threshold: Nearing $500,000
  • Mid-Range: Approximately $500,000 - $1,000,000
  • Upper Range: Can exceed $1,000,000

These ranges consider both tangible assets like property and liquid assets such as cash or seniors' investment accounts.