The federal government is setting a temporary minimum unemployment rate of 13.1 per cent for all employment insurance economic regions across Canada.
The move, which took effect Aug. 9, is meant to recognize the ongoing unpredictability of the pandemic on the country’s labour market.
The regional unemployment rate is part of the calculation that determines how many weeks of EI an unemployed Canadian can receive, along with the number of hours of insurable employment they worked.
When unemployed workers begin transferring out of the Canada Emergency Response Benefit and back to EI, the new temporary minimum entry requirement will allow those living in regions with a lower unemployment rate to have their claim assessed at the new floor. Canadians living in a region with an unemployment rate higher than 13.1 per cent will be assessed on the region’s actual rate.
“The temporary use of a national minimum unemployment rate for the EI program will help more people access EI regular benefits and provide eligible Canadians with access to a minimum 26 weeks of benefits,” said Carla Qualtrough, minister of employment, workforce development and disability inclusion, in a news release.
The announcement came on the same day as a report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives that found 82 per cent of people currently receiving the CERB would receive either less or nothing on EI under the existing rules.
The report, by David MacDonald, a senior economist at the CCPA, also found the effects of the transition would be highly gendered — 493,000 women, as opposed to 320,000 men, would be worse off on EI compared to the CERB and 57 per cent of the CERB recipients at risk of being ineligible for EI are women.
In late July, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced plans to move Canadians who don’t qualify for EI — such as gig or contract workers — to a parallel transition benefit that is similar to EI. The program will contain access to training and the ability to work more hours without having as steep a clawback in benefit payments.