It’s time to review Employment Insurance
One out of every 20 jobs in Canada are currently going unfilled.
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce’s March 2022 Labour Force Survey reveals the total to be 830,000 jobs.
“It seems like every survey shows businesses laser-focused on two issues limiting their recovery and posing the most significant barrier to economic growth: supply chain disruptions and labour shortages. Most businesses believe supply chain disruptions are with us for another year, maybe two, but our members see no end to Canada’s labour shortage crisis,” states Leah Nord, Canadian Chamber of Commerce Senior Director of Workforce Strategies and Inclusive Growth.
It's going to take a multi-faceted approach to properly address our labour challenges. It will take involvement from all levels of government, public institutions and the private sector all working together.
The Canadian Chamber of Commerce is advocating that this is the time to modernize Employment Insurance. The Government of Canada is engaging in consultations on EI. The EI system has not been reviewed in 70 years, something the CCC calls a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to crack this stale nut wide open.
The CCC would like to see EI evolve towards becoming a talent development process that responds to the regional and sectoral labour market needs, supporting individuals through temporary job loss with financial and training resources. The CCC goes on to say that in order to achieve this we need a mechanism wherein all parties – business, labour and government – can engage in a meaningful and sustained way.
The latest unemployment numbers highlight that the issue is much bigger than simply getting people back to work. Unemployment dropped to the lowest it has been since 1974, hitting 5.3% in March. CCC Chief Economist Stephen Tapp expects to see the trend continue with unemployment dropping below 5% this year.
People are back to work.
It’s important to look at how we’re recovering. For example, Canada added 73,000 jobs in March, of which 55,000 were men and 18,000 women. Full-time work is leading growth, having added 93,000 jobs, while part-time employment dropped a further 20,000. While many people may prefer full-time work, part-time provides its own essential role in the economy by engaging people who require the added flexibility. Wages continue to rise, but struggle to keep pace with soaring inflation.
One key aspect of overhauling EI is to reposition people for the workforce. The system currently provides needed financial assistance while someone is out of work and essentially puts them back into the workforce to fill the same role they left. There is an opportunity to do better and use the EI process to develop much needed talent.
We have to come to terms with the fact that dealing with such a large hole in our workforce is about more than finding enough bodies to fill those jobs. We can do better. We can modernize our workforce in ways that won’t require the same things to be done the same way we were doing them. Ultimately, this innovative approach to employment gaps will make our country more competitive.
Without access to talent for our businesses, our economy is at risk of stagnating. The timing couldn’t be worse considering the desperate situation many businesses are facing coming out of two years of COVID-19 public health measures.
The heart of our economy, our growth, and our prosperity is people. It’s time to do better about how we support, train, and engage our most valuable resource.
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