The Employment Insurance (EI) program is extremely important with regard to the Canadian workers (Canadian Labour Congress, 2009), and more so during this period of global recession, in which jobs are hard to come by, and employers have been left with no choice but to lay off some of their employees. In this regard, those workers that have been laid-off are in a dire need of sufficient benefits for their sustenance and that of their families, as they seek to look for other forms of employment.
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With recession comes not just a loos of jobs, but getting new employment becomes quite hard. Following the previous two recession of the early 80s and later, in the early 90s, the employment levels in Canada, on a national scale, increased tremendously to 11 percent, up from 7.5 percent (Canadian Labour Congress, 2009). The sad thing is that Canada as a country is ill-prepared in the face of the looming recession. Already, it has been projected that the current EI program is not in a position to support those who lose their jobs, in terms of providing benefits.
The benefits that EI beneficiaries used to enjoy in 1996 was $ 604, based on the currency value of the dollar today. This has now dropped to $ 435. In the 2006/07 financial year, just about four out of ten employed workers were considers by the EI program (Canadian Labour Congress, 2009). Still, the number of women who qualified was dismal, compared to that of men. The reason behind this is that a majority of the young people, temporary, part-time, immigrants and seasonal workers, and more so those who are located in the larger cities, fails to put in adequate hours that who necessitate their qualifying for the EI program (Canadian Labour Congress, 2009).
Qualifying requirements for EI
Persons that are considered to qualify for the EI Program only get to be eligible for benefit consideration for a maximum of 32 weeks, or seven months at most. This is a figure that is way below the theoretical 50 weeks maximum, in several regions that experience extremely high levels of unemployment (Canadian Labour Congress, 2009). There are even several workers that only qualify for 14 weeks maximum, of the EI benefits. At a time when the levels of unemployment have exceedingly been low, EI claimants have oftentimes sought to look for new employment. In the 2006/07 financial year, one out of every four claimants reported having exhausted their EI benefits (Kuhn, 2002).
For an individual to qualify for the EI benefit, some criteria are usually followed. First, in case a person is insured, and is neither a new entrant nor is trying to re-enter into the labor force, then such a person is considered to be eligible on two conditions. First, such a person should have had their employment earnings interrupted. Second, they should have put in the specified hours in terms of insurable employment (Service Canada, 2009). These hours tend to vary in terms of the unemployment levels of a given region. For instance, if a region has an unemployment level of 6 percent and below, then for a candidate from this region to qualify, they should have put in 700 hours in the qualifying period (Service Canada, 2009).
At the end, a region whose rate of employment is at or greater than 13 percent requires the individuals from such a region to have put in 420 hours. In case an insured individual happens to be either a re-entrant or a new entrant, then they ought to have their employment earnings interrupted, in addition to having put in 910 insurable employment hours or more, during their period of qualification. A few exceptions to these requirements occur, in case an individual that is insured is neither a re-entrant, nor a new entrant, and has received payment benefits amounting to over one week.
Training programs offered by EI
As a result of harsh economic conditions such as recession periods, In that may be accompanied by the loss of jobs, those individual; that finds themselves without employment could decide on enrolling into various training programs, as opposed to just remaining in an inactive state. The cardinal rule that ensures individual benefits from employment insurance is being in a state of unemployment (Canadian Labour Congress, 2009). In addition, such persons must not only be able but also willing to aggressively engage in the activity of looking for a suitable job. In line with this, enrolling in a training program goes a long way into ensuring that such individuals without a job can enhance their skills, thus becoming more marketable in the job market.
The EI Act (section 25) gives power to the staff of the Social and Human Resource Development Canada (HRSDC) to direct various persons to training programs or courses, so that they may gain valuable skills that shall, in the long run, ensure that they are more competitive as they seek to make a come-back to the labor market (HRSDC, 1993).
In return, HRSDC has ensured that it has entered into various agreements with several public, private as well as provincial organizations, so that these may take the role of designated authorities to the beneficiaries of EI, in terms of the training programs that such individuals may be willing to enroll in, as well as additional activities of employment, that translates into such individual acquiring financial assistance (Canadian Labour Congress, 2009). Once a designated authority has referred an individual to either a certain training program on a course, such individuals are then considered as being unemployed and as such, they are not free to take part in any form of employment within the period for which they are under training.
Various training programs
A wide range of training programs gets offered by HRSDC to those persons that require assistance to enable them to surmount potential or real impediments within the labor market. The kinds of training programs that HRSDC offers often tend to be tailored within the context of the job market so that these usually get reviewed based on the job-market demand. The alterations within the economy of Canada thus play a crucial role in determining how these programs may be revised. Some of these training programs include:
Skill development is one of the training programs that the EI offers to its beneficiaries. This happens to be an employment program that seeks to avail financial help to individuals that qualify for the program to assist them in acquiring on necessary training skills to enable them to obtain employment. The social and human resource development of Canada (HRSDC, 1993) has been credited with the inception of this program. By allocating funds to qualified persons in need of training skills, this skill development program, therefore, has the objective of ensuring that such individuals are in a position to improve their chances of obtaining employment, and thus become dependable. The HRSDC has entered into a development agreement for the labor market with the various territories and provinces. This agreement describes the means of delivering their employment programs for each of the various territories and provinces. Only the ‘insured participant’ of unemployed persons may be eligible for this program, in line with the stipulations of the Act of Employment Insurance, section 58 (Service Canada, 2009).
Many organizations are charged with the responsibility of delivering skill development to unemployed Canadians. One of them is HRSDC, albeit in an indirect manner. These organizations usually enter into development agreements with the labor market with the various territories and provinces in Canada; intending to define how they are to avail the employment programs to their members. Another organization, Service Canada, usually offers skills development in addition to extra support and benefits employment measures in regions such as Nova Scotia, New Foundland, Yukon, and Prince Edward Island (Service Canada, 2007).
This is a kind of ‘on-the-job training for those individuals that wish to work within the skilled trade sector. The job also entails the acquiring of novel skills from experts in a particular trade, and this goes a long way into increasing the chances of the persons without a job to secure one in the future, after having learned the necessary skills of trade (Service Canada, 2009).
Often, the apprentices get paid as they obtain skills. The apprenticeship programs are mainly confined to the manufacturing/industrial, construction, service, and manpower sector.
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According to the projection by Statistics Canada (2007), the city of Toronto has a population of 2,503,281. In addition to this, available survey data by the labor force of Statistic Canada also indicates that in 2008, more than 1.35 million residences of Toronto city had one form of employment or another. More than 80 percent of the residents in Toronto city have been employed by the service industries.
Nevertheless, manufacturing is still considered the largest sector, in terms of grouping, and which offers employment to 12 percent of the residents of Toronto city. Scientific, professional as well as technical services provide an additional source of employment to about 11 percent of city residents. Other sectors which are conside5tered to be growing and therefore offer substantial employment services include health care, financial services, retail trade, and education (Statistic Canada 2009).
EI coverage in Toronto
In terms of coverage by the employment insurance, the cities of Ottawa and Toronto have both been shown to have the least amount of coverage, concerning the benefits of employment insurance. As such, the service is not in a position to still offer its primary responsibility of ensuring that those individuals that are without a job still get some financial assistance for their sustenance as well as that of their families (Human Resource Development Canada, 1993). In addition to the offering of training prop grams to such individuals so that in the future, they are better equipped to handle a job opening within the labor market.
Statistics now show that the EI program only manages to cater for one out of five persons that are without any form of employment in such larger cities as Toronto. Claims have also abounded to the effect that EI benefits have witnessed a reduced rate of coverage in Toronto when compared to such regions as Stratford, as well as with the national average figures for Canada as a nation. In 1990, the EI coverage was estimated to have been at 80 percent, a figure that fell tremendously to a dismal 40 percent by 2004, on a national scale. This massive decline so witnessed was dues to the fact that the EI programs underwent various changes, coupled with the alterations in terms of the labor market composition.
Another reason behind this sharp decline in Toronto is as a result of an increased presence of ineligible groups such as those workers in possession of jobs that are out of standard. There is also the issue of those persons that have fallen victim to EI program changes, such as the various immigrants. As a result of these multitudes of problems that have led to changes within the EI programs, some eligible Canadians find themselves without enjoying the benefits of EI (Service Canada, 2009), meaning that they cannot also be in a position to cover for their medical bills in the event of falling sick. Not only can they not get the financial assistance, but they are also losing in terms of the valuable training programs that would have ensured that in the future, they can acquire better jobs in the years to come.
With a population of 29, 700, Stratford is characterized by a diversified economic base that includes tourism and manufacturing (these have been recognized as the fastest-growing economic sectors in Stratford), financial, commercial, and the service industry. The unemployment rate of Stratford bears a reflection of its thriving and vibrant economy. For example, in 2000, Stratford witnessed a rate of unemployment that was lower than both the provincial and national levels, at 6 percent (Stratford Direct, 2009). This is seen as a healthy unemployment rate since it ensures that industries are constantly supplied with a group of employees that are qualified, and at the same time also not having a greater labor force proportion without employment.
While it would be expected that Stratford with its lower unemployment rate of 6 percent would not be a source of the problem to the labor market, nevertheless we have to appreciate that unlike some of the major cities that have a higher population, but their unemployment levels are also high, there have to be sufficient industries to absorbed the manpower within a given region. In the case of Stratford, the numbers of companies that have invested there, and so act as potential employers, are nowhere near those that have invested in such bigger cities as Toronto (Bojas, 2002). Even within its higher levels of population, its residents have a wide choice of companies to which they could turn to for possible job openings.
One of the criteria that enables one to be considered as a beneficiary of the EI program is being unemployed. Still, there is also the issue of the number of hours one should have put in while employed, although this number often decreases with an increase in the level of unemployment. As such, an individual who is from Toronto, a city that has a higher level of unemployment than say, Stratford, would need to have put in a few hours for eligibility as a potential beneficiary of the EI program (Human Resource Development Canada, 1993).
What this implies then is that there is a higher likelihood for those unemployed persons that reside in the remote regions of Canada to be denied their benefits under the number of hours that they have put in. without a source of income, one is not able to finance their medical expenses, and so the diseased burden may hypothetically be anticipated to be more in such isolated regions, as opposed to the bigger cities like Toronto (Kuhn, 2002).
Employment insurance and health issues
While the main objective of the employment insurance is to provide a temporary source of finances for the Canadians that are without a job, in the process of them either looking for other forms of employment or even the chances to improve on their skills, it is worthy of note here that this scheme could as well be to he disadvantage of those Canadian located in regions that are either endowed with limited companies that may offer employment. What this means also is that the rate of employment would be high in such a region (Marmot & Richard, 2009).
Even though the minimum number of hours for one to get considered for employment insurance benefits tends to reduce with an increase in the rate of unemployment, nevertheless there are thousands of individuals located in such isolated regions who suffer from ill-health primarily because of this (Marmot & Richard, 2009). In a case whereby an individual; may wish to leave their employment, and they have also made their share of contribution towards the benefits of the employment insurance, one is often encouraged to make an application for the employment insurance.
If one can access employment insurance, what this means, therefore, is that such individuals are also not able to benefit from the training programs that are often conducted by such organizations as Canada service. These training programs aim to improve the skills of unemployed Canadians so that in the future, they stand a better chance of obtaining gainful employment (Canada Service, 2007). However, this form of training may only take place if one is eligible for the scheme, in terms of qualifications.
Again, this places the small town at a disadvantage, mainly because the available industries and companies that may offer employment to the unemployed are few and far between. In addition, the rate of employment shall also be higher, in comparison to bigger cities that also have many companies that may offer employment positions to the unemployed residents. Without any form of employment, one is not in a position to enjoy the medical cover.
Employment insurance (EI) is a program that runs in Canada, and which seeks to assist Canadians that are without a job financially so that they can take care of themselves, and also their members of their families. This includes the health care of these unemployed individuals as well. In addition, EI runs various training programs in conjunction with the cities are provincial authorities under an agreement with HRSDC to offer such courses as apprenticeship and skill development to unemployed Canadians, to increase their chances of obtaining gainful employment in the future.
One of the criteria for one to become eligible for the EI benefits is that one should have done a minimum number of hours of gainful employment when they had a job. This number of hours varies from region to region, based on the employment levels at such a region. The population of a region will play a significant role in this, because as populations increase, so does the demand for jobs, and hence a rise in the levels of unemployment.
Still, the numbers of industries of companies to offer employment in a region matter, so that regions that have been isolated development-wise tend to have lesser job openings. In line with this, a lack of access to EI benefits impacts the health of the residents as they are not in a position to cater for this vital service, and so their health status takes a toll.
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