Retirement » Government Benefits

CPP Child Rearing Dropout Provision (CRDO) – The bad

The intent of the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) Child-Rearing Dropout (CRDO) provision is to ensure that a parent who stayed at home to raise children isn’t penalized by those years of low or no earnings when their CPP benefit is calculated.

It sounds reasonable, but as I said in my previous article on the Child Rearing Dropout Provision, the CRDO has its Good, its Bad, and its Ugly aspects. Here is the second installment in this trilogy─the Bad!

Part II – The bad of Child Rearing Dropout

I consider two aspects of the CRDO to be bad:

  • ·First, although Service Canada publications say that the primary caregiver can apply for the CRDO, it isn’t always the primary caregiver who is eligible.
  • ·Second, the way that the CRDO is applied can sometimes be unfair.

I’ll deal with each of these aspects separately below.

Who is eligible for the CRDO?

For periods of CRDO eligibility before 1993, the person who is entitled to claim the CRDO is the parent who was eligible to receive the Family Allowances (FA). Under the Family Allowances Act, FA benefits were always paid to the female parent unless the parents were separated and the child was living primarily with the male parent. That means that the female parent always has primary right to claim the CRDO, and the male parent can qualify only if:

  • He remained at home during this period.
  • He was the primary caregiver for the child(ren).
  • The female parent waives her rights to the CRDO and/or doesn’t claim it herself.

For periods of CRDO eligibility since 1993, the person who is entitled to claim the CRDO is the parent who was eligible to receive the Child Tax Benefit (CTB). While eligibility for the CTB is less gender-biased than for the FA, the female parent is still the primary recipient of CTB under the Income Tax Act and thus has primary eligibility for the CRDO. For situations where the male parent was the primary caregiver for the child(ren) but didn’t apply for the CTB in his own name, he will need the consent of the female parent in order to qualify for the CRDO.

This use of past eligibility for FA or CTB as the main criteria for determining CRDO eligibility, means that a female parent can often claim the CRDO on that basis alone, even if the male parent was the primary caregiver.

How does the CRDO work?

In my previous article, I talked about the difference between CRDO 1 and CRDO 2, but I didn’t describe in detail how they are actually applied.

One of the main reasons why the CRDO doesn’t work well is that the CPP doesn’t track earnings and contributions on a monthly basis. Instead, any earnings for a calendar year are “deemed” to have been earned equally for every month in that year. This can create some unfairness when the primary caregiver wants to claim the CRDO for only part of a year. It can also create some unfairness if a couple wants to share the parenting and share the CRDO eligibility. Probably the best way to demonstrate these situations is to look at the following examples.

Example 1

Sharon works right up until just before her child is born in August, by which time she has earned $30,000 for the year. She doesn’t work again for the rest of that year, and she assumes that she can use the CRDO to drop out the remaining four months of zero earnings (September to December).

However, under the CPP, the $30,000 is deemed to have been earned equally throughout the 12 months of the year, or $2,500 monthly. When she applies for a CPP benefit and claims the CRDO, the four months of zero earnings will be dropped out only if her “deemed” earnings of $2,500 monthly is less than her average lifetime earnings.

Furthermore, if those four months are dropped out, she will also drop out $10,000 of earnings credits (4 x $2,500), and be left with $20,000 of earnings credits over the remaining eight months, rather than the $30,000 that she actually earned.

Example 2

Susan and Peter agree that they will share the parenting of their child equally. Susan remains at home to look after their three-year-old child from January to June; Peter remains at home from July through December. They both have good jobs that give them this flexibility, and they each earn $36,000 in the six months that they do work. Both claim the CTB for the six-month period that they were the primary caregiver, and both assume that they will be able to drop out six months of zero earnings under the CRDO.

Unfortunately, they’re caught in the same situation of “deemed earnings” as in Example1, where the earnings will be deemed to have been earned equally over the full year at $3,000 monthly. CRDO will apply only if this amount is less than their average lifetime earnings. Furthermore, if those six months are dropped out, the corresponding deemed earnings are also dropped out, and they will each be left with six months in their contributory periods and only $18,000 dollars of earnings not $36,000.


If a couple wants to share parenting, they may want to consider doing so in full calendar-year periods, at least from the perspective of maximizing the benefit of CRDO eligibility.

This issue of gender bias regarding CRDO eligibility creates some minor unfairness when a relationship remains intact, but it creates some real issues when a relationship breaks down. I’ll talk more about this latter situation in Part III (The Ugly).


  1. iz

    Is there anything I can do to dispute the years that my ex husband is claiming for? He has send in a claim but I have not signed anything.

  2. DR

    I am on a low income. I was a stay at home mom and qualify for the drop out provision. However on separation CPP was split. This, of coarse affect those years when CPP contributions were higher. Am I correct that it is those years that will be discounted? Am I better off to forget about the drop out and just apply for pension.

  3. Doug


    I’m not exactly sure what your question means when you ask what years will be “discounted”, but any periods where you’re eligible for the CRDO (child under age 7) will be dropped out when you apply for your pension if your earnings during those periods are lower than your “lifetime average earnings”.

    This criteria is the same after a credit split as it would have been without a credit split.

  4. Judith Orde

    I had 3 children between 1968 and 1975. I stopped work in 1968 started back 1980. Am I elegible to apply for this program? ThNks.

    • Doug Runchey

      The child-rearing dropout isn’t a program; it’s a provision under the CPP that can increase the amount of any CPP benefit that you receive. And yes, you should qualify for it.

  5. Jay Wolfe

    We have 7 children, our 6th child has Down Syndrome. My wife worked during the raising of the first 2. She did not work with the others. She then never returned to work so as to raise our son with Down Syndrome. He is now 25. Can this extended child rearing dropout be incorporated into my wife’s cpp benefit?

    • Doug Runchey

      Hi Jay – I’m sorry, but the child-rearing dropout cannot be extended beyond age 7.

      • Louise Stewart

        I was a specialized foster parent for many years. I raised 3 young boys with psychological and behavioural issues. At this time the youngest of my own 5 children was 8. I was not allowed to work during this time. Now I find myself with no pension and a very diminished CPP. Can I claim the drop out years at least for the time that the foster children were under 8?

        • Doug Runchey

          Hi Louise – You could only claim the CRDO if you were eligible for the FA and/or CTB for those boys, which I don’t believe would have been the case as a foster parent.

  6. Abdul

    We have 3 children. My wife passed away before attaining pension age and never claimed. I turned 60 few months ago. Can i apply for cpp and crdo

    • Doug Runchey

      Hi Abdul – Did you apply for a CPP survivor’s pension when your wife died? If so, the CRDO was probably claimed as part of that calculation. If not, you may be able to claim the CRDO retroactively on her survivor’s pension or claim it now for yourself (you’d have to claim that you were the primary caregiver, and it will only help you if your earnings were lower (relative to the YMPE) when the children were under age 7 compared to your lifetime average earnings).

  7. A. Harley

    Another unfair thing about the CRDO provision. I have been applying for Disability CPP for years and in 2009 I first was denied because at the time the diagnosis wasn’t very clear, They believed that I would get better, not knowing just how ill I actually was. Being that I was in total denial myself of the permanence of my illness, and because I wanted so much to get better and go back to work, I was being naive in believing that the adjudicator was medically trained, and they must be right! That I just might eventually get better! So, I didn’t appeal the decision. Even though, I was indeed progressively getting sicker and sicker.

    In 2015 I reluctantly applied again, now knowing that I had Lupus, not fibromyalgia, along with multiple other conditions that made me very much disabled. I also had found a better qualified Rheumatologist and Neurologist who properly diagnosed me and was willing to state that on my application.

    Being that my Minimum Qualifying Period had passed I again applied with my 3 children for the drop out provision. My oldest was born in 1998, and my middle was born 2001 and my last was born in 2006. This should drop out the years I had raising my children, (with lots of help) and bring my MQP to 2014, and also include the period when my new Dr had started to see me in 2011.

    Imagine my surprise when I was told that although my older sons would be used for the CRDO, my youngest daughter, who was adopted, could not be used.

    You see during the period that we were going through the adoption process, in the ministry’s eyes we were considered restricted foster parents. Restricted is a classification for parents intending to adopt the child of a relative. In my case my sisters child. We had her from birth and to us, she wasn’t any different than my sons were, but because the ministry was so very short staffed, and not knowing the repercussions at the time, I had told the overworked social service workers to focus more on the children that are not in homes yet, and to take their time with our home-study because she is just like our own child anyway. She is safe and doing well, the adoption was just a piece of paper.

    We didn’t realize that because our Child tax benefit was being paid to the ministry directly and collected on our behalf, and then dispersed to us within the monthly cheque issued to us from the ministry, that the records of her being in our care were not recorded to CPP. Because of this gap in the paper trail, she now could not be used for a drop out provision. And this will also make my Drs testimony not within the qualifying period. The ultimate loophole in the favor of the federal government. SO very unfair!

    Her adoption went through 7 years after she was born, the last year she could have been used for a drop out provision. This wouldn’t have been an issue at all if it were not for my application for CPP. She wasn’t any different than the two children I gave birth to, but according to the federal government, she doesn’t even count!

    I have fought the repeated denial of my application right to tribunal which will be held in a few weeks, and I do think this should be brought to the attention with the press if it costs me my CPP disability application. I am pretty much bed bound now and have not been able to work since 2004, these funds are very much needed.

    The methods they use to deny claims are very shady. 🙁

    • Doug

      Yes, you raise a good point, although if you can prove that you were disabled as early as 2004, you wouldn’t need the CRDO provision in order to be eligible for CPP disability. Best of luck!

  8. A. Harley

    Unfortunately due to only being diagnosed with Fibromyalia at that time, a few specialists were under the impression that I would recover, and included a few sentences in thier reports to my GP that the adjudicators picked out to twist into thier needs…but getting better didn’t happen, dispite trying all the recommended therapies and wanting so badly to recover my old life.

    Having the more recent diagnosis that shows Lupus, syringomyelia and vertebrobasilar dicloectasia, (brain stem compressed by a enlarged twisted artery) it would be a lot easier to proove my disability if the dates included my new specialists with the correct diagnosis. (Who agree that I most likely had these conditions all along, during the years that it was believed that I only had Fibromyalia.)

    So although I have never been able to work since my first application, because of these loopholes, I will not get what I am entitled to.

    Very unfair and somewhat cold of the adjudicators who know full well that I am entitled to it, but are pressured to deny as many claims as they can….or probably are rewarded for turning down claims regardless if the person needs it or not. It’s not supposed to be a business…it’s there for people who paid into it and now really need it.

    Having spent most of the past decade in bed, in extreme pain, and wishing to be able to enjoy life like I used to…trust me, I would much rather be working!!

    The income is desperately needed, raising 5 people in such an expensive area on just one income is almost impossible. I’d feel a little more useful if I could at least contribute something. ?

    • Doug Runchey

      My only comment is that the adjudicators are not pressured to deny anyone, and there is no reward for denying applications. In all other aspects, you have my sympathies.

  9. Ann K.

    Hello Doug. Thank you for an interesting website. My question is in regards to the allowance within CPP legislation which allows couples to enter in to a legal agreement to leave their CPP pension credits outside of a property division in the event that the relationship breaks down. To me, this disparity between the provinces introduces inequality for Canadians based on where they reside. Are you familiar with any charter challenges that speak to this? Thanks!

    • Doug Runchey

      Hi Ann – That’s an interesting point, but “No” I am not aware of any such Charter challenges.

  10. Peter Darwish

    Can you provide the exact mathmatical formula used to determine CPP and CRDO? Is there any situation where claiming the CRDO could reduce the amount of CPP?

    • Doug Runchey

      Hi Peter – First, the CRDO can never reduce the amount of any CPP benefit. The CPP calculation is based on a person’s lifetime average earnings after some allowed dropout periods, including the CRDO. For the CRDO, months are dropped out only if the earnings for that period are lower than their average lifetime earnings level, so dropping out those lower periods will always increase the average lifetime earnings and thereby increase the amount of the CPP benefit. If you want to understand the overall formula better, read this article:

  11. Susan S

    I worked 18-54 with earnings at the max in all but the first couple years and during two 6-month mat leaves. I am wondering if I can apply the general dropout to my nil/low earnings years after age 54 and if I should therefore try to maximize the general dropout years and not claim CRDO (10 years). Comments?

    • Doug Runchey

      Hi Susan – Claiming the CRDO should never result in a lower CPP amount, so I would just say claim it. If you only had two years with lower-than-average earnings due to maternity leave, that won’t reduce your general dropout much anyway. If you want me to do some calculations for you with and without the CRDO, my fee would be $50 plus GST. IF so, email me at [email protected]

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked*