Much of the discussion around the recent and proposed changes Employment Insurance (EI) has centred on the effects it will have on seasonal workers in the Atlantic provinces. However, the Mowat Centre for Policy Innovation argues that the changes will most impact on young, urban and immigrant workers and businesses in Ontario and the western provinces.
Policy brief explains changes and analyzes their impact
The Mowat Centre recently released a policy brief that outlines the changes and analyzes their projected impact.
Read and download the report: What the New EI Rules Mean.
The brief follows a panel discussion in June featuring Arthur Sweetman (McMaster University), Catherine Swift (Canadian Federation of Independent Business), and Armine Yalnizyan (Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives) that was moderated by the Mowat Centre’s Matthew Mendelsohn.
Mowat concludes that the package of reforms does little to address the structural problems of the EI system. Further, while popular discussion has focused on the potential impact on seasonal workers, Atlantic and rural Canada, Mowat argues that the changes are likely to have a disproportionately negative effect on young, urban and immigrant workers, and businesses in Ontario and the Western provinces.
The brief explains each change and its potential impact – including “suitable employment” and experience ratings, “reasonable” job search, job alerts for EI recipients, and new links between EI and the Temporary Foreign Worker (TFW) program.
Further, it argues that much will depend on how the new rules will be administered and enforced.
Impact on immigrants and links to temporary foreign workers
Mowat argues that the changes are likely to have a disproportionately negative impact on young, urban, and immigrant workers.
The change-by-change analysis does not specifically outline the impact on immigrant workers. However, perhaps we can assume that recent immigrants are likely to be 1) claimants in urban areas, and 2) first-time claimants, who will be treated as “occasional claimants” under the new rules.
On the other hand, the reforms make explicit links between Temporary Foreign Workers (TFWs), EI claimants and employers. This seems to be simply an information link – employers who want to hire a TFW will be provided with information about EI claimants in their region. The government has not indicated that it will introduce incentives for employers to hire EI claimants or disincentives to discourage them from hiring TFWs.
And even if employers were incented to hire locally, Mowat argues that while moving EI claimants into jobs currently held by TFWs could have some impact in Ontario and Alberta, this would have very little impact in the Atlantic regions.
(In other news, the federal government has just expanded a pilot program for TFWs in some skilled trades in Alberta.)
Need for data to assess the impact of changes
Notably, Mowat points to recent changes that weaken the way we collect and share the data that informs public policy. The elimination of the long-form census and the Survey of Income and Labour Dynamics in particular mean that it will be difficult to asses the impact of these EI reforms.
- EI Reform – Aiming East, But Affecting Ontario (Arthur Sweetman, on Mowat Centre)
- Employment Insurance & Income Support research section on Mowat Centre site
- Making It Work: The Final Recommendations of the Mowat Centre EI Task Force