Calling the Employment Insurance system too ‘lucrative’ for some who are ‘work-shy,’ Canada’s Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development announced changes to the program last week.
Unemployed Canadians (who number approximately 7.3% of the total population and 13% of people aged 15-29) will have to look for a job every day, show proof of this search, and the government will define what is suitable employment based on training and job history. If you refuse what bureaucrats — or the minister herself — calls a suitable job, you will lose some benefits, and more over time if you stay on EI. And if you’ve been on EI before, then you really have to be willing to jump in to whatever comes your way.
The Minister of Public Works and Government Services (who is also Minister for Status of Women) offered a wonderful analogy:
New EI changes are like ‘E-Harmony’ for job seekers and employers: matching Cdns looking for work with available jobs, data, support.
(But only if the next partner you’re looking for is 90 percent as good as your previous partner, or less if you’ve used the dating service before, and if you lower your expectations the longer you spend on the market).
What Diane Finley actually said is that they’re making these changes “to make sure that the worker is always better off taking work thatís available than not.”
In other words, they want to make it as difficult as possible to live off EI and Canadians who have paid into the program to protect them when they are looking for another job will have to take whatever they can find no matter the future prospects or the affect it will have on their lives and happiness. Because what potential employers are really looking for is desperation.
The government is also replacing thousands of part-time workers who hear appeals from those who have had their EI refused to a tribunal of 74. The Minister says this will be more efficient. The tribunal will also be hearing appeals concerning Old Age Security benefits and the Canada Pension Plan.
One person who is involved in the current review system pointed out to CBC that 74 people will have a hard time handling the 26,000 appeals the review board saw in 2011. (That would be almost one appeal per day per person, not counting appeals concerning OAS and CPP).
The Harper government says that these changes were necessary because the old system was inefficient, but it’s hard to see how this could possibly work faster. What you can’t argue with, however, is that these changes speak to the Tory base, who tend to see EI as a crutch used by those who don’t want to work.
Photo Credit: Bede Jackson