COVID-19 has shaken the Canadian labour market to its core, and it has revealed that our Employment Insurance system is not well equipped to handle a major disruption to the economy.

In the first half of 2020, roughly 2.4 million Canadians were laid off or had permanently lost their jobs. By January 2021, roughly 511,000 individuals had been unemployed for more than six months. In response to these unprecedented unemployment numbers, the federal government created a patchwork of emergency response benefits to cover the gaps in the EI system.

Now, as vaccinations go out across the country and the economy reopens, people will need to get back to work. EI could provide a stepping stone, but will the current system get people back to full-time employment?  A new IRPP study argues that the system could be improved by redesigning the working-while-on-claim provisions, which allow claimants to take part-time or casual jobs and still keep a portion of their EI benefits.

The authors of the study, IRPP Research Director Colin Busby, Stephanie Lluis, professor of economics at the University of Waterloo, and Brian P. McCall, professor of education, economics and public policy at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor, join us on the podcast to discuss their research.

Policy Options Podcast · PO Podcast 126 РMaking EI work for workers

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Brian P. McCall
Brian P. McCall is a professor of education, economics and public policy at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor. He is a former co-editor of Economics of Education Review. His current research interests include the incentive effects of unemployment compensation; the effect of scholarships on college persistence, completion, and earnings; the effect of college enrolment delay on college completion and the impact of the great recession on educational attainment and earnings. He received his PhD in economics from Princeton University in 1988.
Stéphanie Lluis
Stéphanie Lluis is a professor of economics at the University of Waterloo. She worked for five years at the University of Minnesota Industrial Relations Center. Since 2016, she has been the director of the SouthWestern Ontario Research Data Centre. Her areas of specialization are labour economics and personnel economics. Her work is published in the Journal of Labor Economics, Industrial and Labor Relations Review and the Journal of Economic Behaviour and Organizations, and her latest publications are in the Canadian Public Policy Journal.  She has a PhD from the Université de Montréal.