The “Job Seekers Allowance”
Michael Mendelson has posted a long comment on my earlier post regarding the Mowat Report on EI.
He defends Caledon’s proposal for temporary non EI income support for the unemployed as a clear improvement over welfare , and stresses that it is not intended to undermine EI as a social insurance program.
I read the Caledon paper – there is a link in Michael’s comment – after commenting on the Mowat Report. Their proposal is certainly worthy of discussion given that a lowering of entrance requirements wouldÂ indeed still leave many unemployed workers out of the EI system.
I continue to find it unfortunate that the Mowat Report made no recommendations on the basic parameters (the entrance requirement; the duration of benefits) within the single national EI system they call for to replace the current grid based upon local unemployment rates. Such vagueness reasonably leads many people to suspect what Mowat have in mind is an erosion of the EI system in at least the higher unemployment regions. And people will look at the Job Seekers proposal in that context.
My reading of both the Mowat Centre proposals and the Caledon Institute’s proposals is that they fail to see the impact of EI exhaustion in their calculations. By claiming that all those who haven’t made EI contributions in the past 12 months are “ineligible” for EI, it appears to follow that reducing the hourly entrance requirement would have little effect. But we don’t know how many of those who haven’t made EI contributions in the previous 12 months were people who did indeed QUALIFY for EI, but exhausted their benefits before finding another job that would allow them to make EI contributions. Labour and community proposals to create one, lower, hourly entrance requirement and simultaneously extend the benefit period, would made a significant difference in the number of unemployed who are receiving benefits. Especially if the proposals to extend benefits for another year during periods of high unemployment were also implemented. Further, it would capture more of those in non-standard work. Yet these proposals — reducing hours AND extending the benefits periods — are essentially dismissed.
Pam makes a good point. Data in the most recent EI monitoring report show that 86% of the unemployed were eligible for EI (ie they had enough hours and had not quit or been fired.) That still means that 14% of the unemployed did not qualify due to insufficient hours. Moreover, of the 86% who were ELIGIBLE for benefits, just 60% actually collected benefits. Part of that drop off is due to exhaustees. In 2009, 27% of all claimants exhausted benefits before finding another jobs.