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The Progressive Economics Forum

Stingy EI Benefits

This morning, Statistics Canada released Employment Insurance (EI) figures for February. These figures show slightly more recipients nationally, but somewhat fewer recipients among provinces. Statistics Canada confirms that this apparent discrepancy reflects the fact that each province is seasonally adjusted separately from the national total.

When seasonal adjustment is tipping the balance between an increase and a decrease, one must conclude that the numbers were “virtually unchanged from the previous month.” That is not surprising since neither total employment nor unemployment changed dramatically in February.

But no news is not necessarily good news. The status quo is that more than 1.5 million Canadians are officially unemployed, but that fewer than 700,000 receive EI benefits. Continuing that state of affairs is a poor outcome.

In addition to releasing figures on the number of EI recipients, Statistics Canada also updated its figures on the dollar value of benefits. In 2009, the average regular benefit was $348.42 per week. That corresponds to an annual income of $18,118.

Therefore, the average EI benefit falls below the Low Income Cut-Off for an individual living in a city with 30,000 or more people. It falls below the Cut-Off for a couple or family living in either rural or urban Canada.

EI benefits are currently only 55% of insurable earnings, up to a maximum of $457 per week. The labour movement has long proposed increasing benefits to a larger percentage of insurable earnings.

UPDATE (April 23): Quoted in The Hamilton Spectator

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Comments

Comment from Paul Tulloch
Time: April 22, 2010, 9:23 am

We should be quite ashamed of ourselves, imagine having a social safety net that comes in below LICO, and then Social assistance even further down. Why not just get rid of them all instead of pretending to have a social safety net.

Social security now is nothing but a shoe horn for companies to make workers accept precarious work until that one day “when a good job comes along”.

We could have increased benefits and came up with a huge retraining program for those displaced. Combined with a feasible ubiquitous industrial green strategy and we would be so much further down the road to prosperity. Instead we have people serving their time, many with great skills, in underemployed, precarious work, fending off the winds of poverty.

Sad.

I am so glad Erin you keep us all on top of these issues. I wish I could help you, but I am not allowed to comment on statcan data for the rest of my life.

Besides you do a great job!

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