An employee who loses their job in Saskatoon can collect Employment Insurance benefits for 14 weeks while they looks for new work, assuming they have worked for at least 20 weeks. But if the exact same person lost their job in Cape Breton, they would receive more than double the benefits – 30 weeks of EI benefits – after just 12 weeks of work. Why?
This system was designed decades ago to recognize regional differences in employment rates, and it assumes those in areas of higher unemployment need more time to find a new job than those in low-unemployment areas, such as Saskatoon. While that may be true on average, people are not averages. Each person who has lost a job has a unique problem, regardless of their geographic location. Yet the system, designed as an insurance plan against job loss, is actually punishing anyone who finds themselves jobless in an area of low unemployment. If it sounds counterproductive, that’s because it is.
The IRPP is calling on Ottawa to abolish the unwieldy system that divides Canada into 62 EI regions. It says Canada needs one national standard for EI eligibility, and it’s right. It also recommends providing better access to EI benefits for part-time workers, who make up a growing proportion of the labour force. This is not the first time that the more dubious aspects of EI have left academics or think-tankers scratching their heads.
What are your stories with EI? Is this system broken?
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