Towards an Inclusive Economy

Syncing EI to the Reality of Low-wage Work
June 27, 2019
6.75 MB33 pages

Canada’s Employment Insurance (EI) program is failing to support low-wage and precariously-employed workers, who have considerably less access to benefits than workers with higher wages. 

Among the study’s findings:

  • While 42 per cent of all unemployed workers qualified for EI in 2017, just 28 per cent of workers earning $15 or less per hour were eligible for benefits;

  • Lower-income workers contributed 1.8 per cent of their employment income to EI (in 2015, most recent data available), while higher-income earners contributed 1.1 per cent; 

  • Gender equality is an important consideration: women make up 59 per cent of low-wage workers. Sixteen per cent of low-wage mothers who contributed to the EI program in the past two years didn’t quality for maternity or parental benefits, a rate 10 percentage points higher than mothers earning more than $15/hour.

The report recommends several changes to EI eligibility rules that would improve coverage for low-wage workers: replacing the variable entrance requirement to a universal 420 hours threshold; changing eligibility requirements to include voluntary job leavers; and implementing an earnings-based eligibility requirement for low-wage workers, similar to the program for fishing industry workers. 

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