Why our EI program isn’t so bad

It may be flawed, but EI has a coverage rate of 82 per cent


Why our EI program isn’t so badCanada’s Employment Insurance program is flawed in many ways. A regional bias means workers in some parts of the country get quicker access and receive benefits longer, which strikes many as unfair. Past surpluses of the EI Fund were never put aside for times of high unemployment, but were spent long ago by Ottawa. And while it’s designed to insure against unexpected job loss, it bizarrely includes maternity and parental benefits. Still, recent criticisms of EI seem misplaced.

Politicians and social activists have complained that only half of all Canadian workers are eligible to receive EI benefits. In an angry exchange between NDP Leader Jack Layton and Prime Minister Stephen Harper in the House of Commons recently, Layton cited 1.3 million unemployed in Canada but only 560,000 recipients of EI. While the statistics are factually correct, it’s not proof EI is failing workers.

Many workers do not pay into the EI system, or are ineligible to earn benefits for legitimate reasons. This includes the self-employed, and workers who were fired for cause or quit on their own. You also need a minimum number of work hours to qualify for benefits, which prevents new workers from getting benefits without having first paid into EI.

Further, EI is designed to help workers in their first year of unemployment. If you’ve been off work longer, you become the responsibility of provincial social assistance programs. This group makes up one-quarter of the total unemployed. Despite Layton’s complaints, EI was never designed to cover every Canadian without a job—forever—regardless of whether they’re on welfare or not.

The functional coverage rate is actually 82 per cent. So while EI isn’t perfect, it will still cover the vast majority of Canadians who paid premiums and now find themselves laid off as a result of the Great Recession.

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Why our EI program isn’t so bad

  1. The trouble with EI is that has become a chronic band aid in regions dependent on a seasonal work force being available. Employers in these regions have many of their employees trapped into low-paying high hours jobs to get their stamps and be ready when called upon. some labour for 8-10 dollars an hour and some are skilled for 10-12 an hour. This isn’t enough for 12 months rent, food, or costs of employment. It also isn’t enough to move to another place to find work either unless someone loans the money. It’s a sick system that employers, people and governments have gotten addicted to. Not to worry though, the grading processes are being automated, there’s few fish left and no one will have money enough to visit for tourism soon.

  2. It’s a scam created by communists to steal my money! Instead of giving money to people who lose their jobs, we should send them to labor camps in Nunavut.

    • You know, you should read “Koba the Dread: Laughter and the Twenty Million,” by Marin Amis, to see why in fact your lightheartedness with “red scares” and the Gulag is horrendously misplaced. Somehow, the spectre of Mcarthyism is more frightening than 20 million killed.

  3. it’s interesting self employed people do not have to pay in and are not covered, why not let the general public also opt out. myself, i have not collected in 15 years, if i were to have saved the $800 per year that would be $12000 not counting interest …they could probably have private employment insurance that is cheaper and better ….what we have now just does the basic and is tweaked for political purposes not to serve the customer (ie the worker)

    • “cough”. Good luck with that sentiment but can you imagine the conditions placed on it? Or better yet in order to achieve low rates they’d be heavily vested in the markets like pensions. That’s gotta be a dream come true these days right?
      EI might be doing it’s best purpose since it’s conception in that it’s buffering the mass layoffs in hopes that those affected can find sufficient work.
      My beef is it’s use as an employment subsidy. A clear abuse of it and used as a political pork barrel for votes.
      Maybe it should be removed from parliaments direct meddling in placed in trust by such as pension plans?
      Might help also if all of the education, training and other add-ons were removed and placed under their own umbrella for transparency. Don’t get me started on it’s involvement in Apprenticeship accreditation.

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