Trend to part-time, short-lived work making it harder to qualify for EI

The Canadian Press
Send to a friend

Send this article to a friend.

OTTAWA — A trend towards more short-lived and part-time jobs has made it harder than ever for many Canadians to qualify for employment insurance benefits, even if they’ve contributed to the federal program, according to data released Monday.

Statistics Canada says only 78.4 per cent of Canadians who lost their jobs last year were eligible for benefits — the lowest rate since the agency started collecting comparable information in 2003.

It’s also down from 83.9 per cent who were eligible to collect benefits in 2010.

Put another way, less full-time permanent work means fewer employees who work enough hours to qualify for EI benefits.

“The share of these contributors who last worked in a permanent, full-time job — where one can generally have enough hours to qualify for EI — declined from 51 per cent to 45 per cent in 2011,” the agency said.

“At the same time, there was an increased share of those who last worked in temporary, non-seasonal work, where one generally accumulates fewer hours.”

To be eligible for EI benefits, contributors require from 420 to 700 hours worked, depending on the unemployment rate in their region. First-time employees, or those with limited work experience in the past two years, need 910 hours.

Economist Erin Weir, president of the Progressive Economics Forum, said the report shows the rules are not working for many Canadians who lose their jobs through no fault of their own.

“The case is quite compelling for the government to focus on making employment insurance benefits more accessible,” he said.

Bank of Montreal economist Doug Porter says the numbers could also be interpreted to show that fewer permanent full-time workers are losing their jobs — but he agrees that the more vulnerable workers are being left out in the cold.

“Often times, it is the last in, first out,” Porter said. “It shows that the people who are often let go first are the people least firmly attached to their jobs.”

Monday’s report found there was on average of 1.34 million people unemployed in 2011. Of those only 867,000 were contributors to EI and only 695,000 lost their jobs involuntarily and hence were eligible for benefits. And of those, 545,000, or 78.4 per cent, received benefits.

As a percentage of all unemployed, only 40.6 per cent were eligible for EI in 2011.

On average, the eligibility rate was highest for older workers, although the core 25-54 working age group also saw the eligibility rate fall from 89.9 per cent to 81.7.

But among youth, those more likely to be impacted by the higher first-time worker requirement, only 42.1 per cent were eligible in 2011.

Women were also highly impacted, with the eligibility rate dropping to 77 per cent from 84.4.

Weir said new more restrictive changes to EI rules introduced in this year’s budget will make it even more difficult for the unemployed to receive benefits in the future. The changes expand criteria under which the unemployed must accept work at the risk of losing their benefits.

The new data cuts against the grain of the government’s boasts about the strength of Canada’s labour market and the country’s social safety net.

Porter said Canada’s unemployment rate, stable at 7.4 per cent last month, doesn’t tell the whole story.

Although Canada has recovered all the jobs lost during the slump, and actually added about 380,000 on top of that, the other side of the coin is that the unemployment rate remains elevated and the number of employed rose to 1.4 million in October. That’s about 300,000 more jobless than in 2008.

“I think the big story in (Friday’s) employment report is we have the same unemployment rate we did a year ago, so we’ve basically stalled out. We’re still getting some job gains, but it’s only enough to keep up with the population (growth) and no better.”

Organizations: Progressive Economics Forum, Bank of Montreal

Geographic location: OTTAWA, Canada

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Thanks for voting!

Top of page



Recent comments

  • Les
    November 06, 2012 - 21:14

    It does not matter how one's lifestyle is conducted - they are still ENTITLED to the benefits they pay in to. It's equivalent to someone putting money in the bank but a new policy stating they are unable to retrieve it for two years. Do not start to think that Employment Insurance does not pertain to socioeconomic issues - it is all interlinked, and pointing fingers won't change problems, it will just create further ignorance. So if you live in a community where there ONLY is seasonal work, you blame the individual for choosing to live in a house they probably inherited? Yes again, great blame shifting. It seems as if many people like to shift the blame to other things/people in order to displace addressing the real issues!

  • Student
    November 06, 2012 - 09:18

    I can't get EI while I'm in school, so why the hell am I paying into it? It certainly isn't so I can dedicate two semesters to my studies whilst getting a check and working the other 41/2 months of the year. BS. I guess I better work in a fishplant if I want the system to work for me.

    • david
      November 06, 2012 - 11:03

      All Ponzi schemes require more paying in than drawing out any any one time, and this is a Ponzi scheme ----- one in the molasses-like process of being outed. But keep complaining that you aren't getting your "fair share" from it, instead of figuring that the entire thing is just an empty, debt-funded, long-running scam to get politicans re-elected. Sure, iut screws up the entire economy and ruins people's incentive to engage in worthwhile work (see: Newfoundland) but hey, so what right?

  • chantal
    November 06, 2012 - 09:13

    Newfoundland? The article is about Canadian workers being screwed... by conservative policies. Newfoundland is only one province in Canada. Did you know there are nine others? Let's see if you can name them. Here's a hint Winnipeg isn't one.

    • To Chantal
      November 06, 2012 - 09:36

      How exactly are Canadian Workers being individual who never draws EI while working a full year should not be responsible for those who choose to work in an industry that is either seasonal/short term. If individuals are stuck in that cycle then the onus is on THE INDIVIDUAL to better themselves and not to continually be baby-sat by the Government!

  • eiforeveryone
    November 05, 2012 - 22:01

    The EI system should be changed so that everyone gets access. Part-time workers and workers that cannot get enough hours are paying into the system but are being denied benefits. Their ei premiums are being taken to pay others eg. fishers who all qualify and do not hav eto meet hours criteria to get benefits. It is time to make this ei system benefits the same for everyone.

  • Wow
    November 05, 2012 - 20:03

    This is bad news for the lazy ones who spend 30 years working a few months a year then collect EI - or Welfare. It is the same.

  • David
    November 05, 2012 - 18:33 is really screwing up EI. Newfoundland truly is one totally effed up place.