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Half-million Canadians will exhaust EI benefits before finding work: Study

Despite easier access to system, numbers of unemployed with exhausted benefits jumps dramatically in one year.

Federal budget needs to address need for longer claim timesA key priority in the upcoming federal budget is addressing the climbing numbers of unemployed Canadians who do not receive EI benefits, according to a new report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA). Despite easier access to benefits, the numbers of those who have fallen through the cracks has jumped from over 650,000 in October 2008 to over 777,000 one year later.

"Many unemployed workers have fallen through the cracks of the EI system," says Andrew Jackson, Chief Economist with the Canadian Labour Congress and a CCPA Research Associate. "In October 2009, 51 percent of unemployed Canadians were collecting EI benefits—and just 41 percent in Ontario."

The report warns that tens of thousands of workers who lost their jobs and did qualify for EI in the early stages of the Great Recession will have exhausted, or will soon exhaust, their benefits before being able to find a new job.

"Even before the recession, more than one in four EI claimants exhausted benefits before finding a new job," Jackson says. "It is estimated that as many as 500,000 Canadians who initiated an EI claim in 2009 will exhaust their benefits because new jobs remain very difficult to find. As the number of EI exhaustees increases, so will provincial social assistance caseloads and the number of families living in poverty."

Jackson says that the minor changes the Conservative government have made so far to the EI system hasnÂ’t done nearly enough to help unemployed Canadians. With the unemployment rate expected to remain at or near current levels through 2010, the report calls on the government to build on the U.S. example and extend EI benefits for all unemployed workers by at least 26 weeks.

Links and sources
  Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives - EI benefits study

Posted: January 31, 2010

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