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Unemployment Insurance in Canada

Date Added: November 07, 2010 04:23:29 PM
As Canadian unemployment rates hold steady with no prospect for many new jobs, Canada faces a severe problem.  Unemployed Canadians who paid their unemployment insurance (or EI), began to reach the end of their eligibility last year, throwing thousands into poverty due to a lack of potential jobs.  Canada like the US also extend benefits for the unemployed, however this cannot last forever.

There are currently more than half a million Canadian citizens out of work with no EI to bolster them.  In some cases this is due to the fact that they have simply not taken advantage of the benefits they are due, but in most instances, it is because their allotment has either run out or they simply didn’t qualify.  In fact, only about half of all unemployed Canadians are currently collecting financial aid from the federal unemployment insurance.  This sad state of affairs is further impacted by the fact that the government-run EI, which enjoyed a surplus of $54 billion in 2007, is estimated to reach a deficit of close to $15 billion by 2012 due to a freeze placed on premiums.

The interesting thing is that workers, while employed, pay into EI (as do employers), so technically speaking, anyone who has held a legal job should be eligible for benefits.  Unfortunately, the system (which many call draconian) makes it difficult even for eligible parties to claim their dues, which has caused many to slip through the cracks.  And a huge number of people are actually considered ineligible because of the ridiculous requirements (in terms of hours put in) that must be met prior to suffering a job loss (most part-time or seasonal workers will never make the cut).  Ontario, in particular, seems to be suffering more than other provinces because of the disproportionate number of contract and self-employed workers.

For those that can receive benefits, there are options.  To begin with, eligible parties will receive income benefits commensurate to their input (as in time worked).  Self-employment assistance is also available to aid workers who attempt to obtain contract work or start their own business rather than continue to seek full-time employment in a system that is clearly failing.  And there are also loans and grants offered for those who wish to gain education or skills that will increase their odds of finding gainful employment.

As of October last year, benefits were extended (to those who have contributed to EI for the last seven out of 10 years or more) granting anywhere from one to twenty additional weeks of funding to those that qualified.  But the stop-gap measure, while helpful, is really just a drop in the bucket.  Not only are unemployed workers continuing to draw benefits, but the number of employed citizens paying into the fund has also dropped as job loss remains prevalent.  The only real way to combat this rapidly growing problem is through job creation.  And while statistics show that new jobs are being created in the thousands every month, it is clearly not enough to combat the overwhelming numbers of people who need assistance. 

To learn more visit the Canadian personal finance blog with an emphasis on careers, real estate, politics, and banking.