August 24, 2011 | By Leah F. Vosko
Charting Exclusions and Partial Exclusions on the Bases of Gender, Immigration Status, Age, and Place of Residence and Exploring Avenues for Inclusive Policy Redesign
Leah F. Vosko identifies the gaps in EI coverage in today’s labour market.
There is a growing mismatch between patterns of labour force participation and Employment Insurance (EI) policy in Canada. While policymakers are attempting to deal with “new” forms of employment and associated insecurities, their responses continue to rely on the assumptions of an earlier era.
Over the last few decades, alongside changing employment norms, women’s labour force participation rates have risen dramatically, there has been a shift in the balance between permanent and temporary international migration for employment to Canada, industrial restructuring has transformed Canada’s regions, and age-related transitions have more become complex and varied. However, the formulation and implementation of EI policy has not kept pace with shifting patterns of labour force
participation. Despite the introduction of an hourssystem intended partly
to address new forms of employment in 1996, EI policy still hinges on the outdated participation norms identified with the adult male industrial citizen engaged in full-time permanent employment following a life-course divided into discreet segments and premised on female care-giving.
This study charts the gap between EI coverage and changing labour market realities using a combination of policy and statistical analysis and identifies remedies for closing this gap. Its focus is regular benefits, with some attention to two special benefits, EI maternity and parental benefits (outside of Quebec, which has a separate benefit system). The analysis is divided into three parts. Part I outlines the guiding conceptual framework, introducing the study’s focus on labour market membership, that is, on who is and is not assumed to be a member of the labour market meriting income replacement when a separation of employment occurs. Part II reviews the central features of the post-1996 EI system and provides a descriptive statistical portrait of inclusions and exclusions from its four modes of coverage—eligibility, entry requirements, level and duration of benefits. Finally, Part III advances select policy options for expanding EI coverage organized around its four modes.