How to Make EI Fairer for All Canadians: C.D. Howe Institute

TORONTO, Nov. 2, 2011 /CNW/ - The federal Employment Insurance (EI) program plays favorites among Canada's regions and sustains costly, long-lasting pockets of high unemployment, say the authors of a new report from the C.D. Howe Institute. In "Mending Canada's Employment Insurance Quilt: The Case for Restoring Equity," Senior Policy Analyst Colin Busby and Professor David Gray say the EI program should be simplified, with nation-wide standards for the number of hours of work needed to qualify for benefits, and for how long benefits should be received.

"The last recession made the inequity of the current regime glaringly obvious," according to David Gray, Professor of Economics at the University of Ottawa, "with the unemployed in Ontario's hard-hit manufacturing sector facing longer qualifying times and getting skimpier benefits than laid-off workers in other regions. Reform is overdue."

Currently, note the authors, laid-off workers in regions with high unemployment rates have easier access to long-lasting EI benefits than laid-off workers in regions with low unemployment rates. One main consequence is the creation and preservation of pockets of high, chronic unemployment in labour markets that are dominated by seasonal employment.  The program slows or stops the adjustment process and deters people from moving to better opportunities, hindering  cross-country convergence of wages and unemployment rates.

The EI program should be simplified to better address unemployed workers' needs, say the authors. Reform should aim at a more dynamic, flexible and buoyant labour market. This means ending regional criteria for eligibility and the length of the benefit period, to be replaced by uniform, countrywide standards. This would strengthen all communities over time, and leave Canada's regions less susceptible to the harms that inevitably follow from global economic shocks.

For the report go to: http://www.cdhowe.org/pdf/Backgrounder_144.pdf

SOURCE C.D. Howe Institute

For further information:

David Gray, Professor of Economics, University of Ottawa;  Colin Busby, Senior Policy Analyst, C.D. Howe Institute,  416-865-1904, email: cdhowe@cdhowe.org.


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