Labour Markets in Transition
Edited by Ruud Muffels
Chapter 12: From Unemployment to Employment Insurance: Towards Transitional Labour Markets in Canada?
Axel van den Berg, Claus-H. von Restorff, Daniel Parent and Anthony C. Masi 12.1 INTRODUCTION When considering the nature and effects of Canadian (Un)Employment Insurance it is important to keep in mind some of Canada’s peculiarities as compared to most other Western countries.1 Canada is not only a vast country, but it is also quite varied in terms of industrial structure and economic conditions. In particular, local unemployment rates vary enormously from region to region, and chronically so, with rates traditionally high in the Maritime Provinces and Québec, intermediate in British Columbia and much lower in Ontario and the Prairie Provinces. Second, and not entirely unrelated, seasonal occupations such as mining, logging, fishing and hunting are quite prominent in some regions, again, especially the Maritimes, Québec and British Columbia. Third, Canada has one of the most decentralised federal governmental structures in the world, with many policy domains related to labour market policy, especially education and training, firmly under provincial jurisdiction. In 1996/1997 the Canadian federal government undertook a major reform of the Unemployment Insurance regime. To underline the seriousness of the intended change in aims and policies, the new system was dubbed the Employment Insurance program. Advocates of the reform have hailed it as ‘the most sweeping reform since the UI (unemployment insurance) Act of 1971’ (Gray, 2004, p. 1), and an unprecedented move from passive to active labour market policies, designed to reduce spells of unemployment and increase the ease with which the unemployed and new...
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