Employment Insurance Coverage Survey, 2011

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In 2011, the rate of eligibility for receiving regular Employment Insurance (EI) benefits declined to its lowest level in nearly a decade. From 2010 to 2011, the decline was most notable among people aged 25 to 44 and women of all ages.

To be eligible to receive regular benefits, unemployed individuals must have contributed to the EI program, met the criteria for job separation, and accumulated enough insurable hours (see the Note to readers).

A total of 867,000 unemployed individuals contributed to the EI program in 2011, down from 913,000 a year earlier.

Of the 867,000 contributors, about 695,000 had a job separation that met the EI program criteria. Of those, 545,000, or 78.4%, had worked enough hours and were eligible to receive EI, down from 83.9% in 2010. The 2011 rate was the lowest since 2003, the earliest year for which comparable data are available.

One reason for the decline was a change in the type of jobs last held by contributors with a valid job separation. The share of these contributors who last worked in a permanent, full-time job—where one can generally have enough hours to qualify for EI—declined from 51% in 2010 to 45% in 2011. At the same time, there was an increased share of those who last worked in temporary, non-seasonal work, where one generally accumulates fewer hours.

Chart 1 
Employment Insurance contributors with enough insurable hours as a share of all contributors with a valid job separation
Chart 1: Employment Insurance contributors with enough insurable hours as a share of all contributors with a valid job separation

Chart description: Employment Insurance contributors with enough insurable hours as a share of all contributors with a valid job separation

CSV version of the chart

Non-contribution rate

Of the 1.34 million unemployed people in Canada in 2011, 35.5% had not contributed to EI. As a result, they were not eligible for regular benefits. The non-contribution rate in 2011 was similar to that in 2010.

There were two main reasons for not contributing to EI: not having worked in the previous 12 months, which includes those who have never worked, and non-insurable employment (that is, being self-employed).

Contributors with an invalid job separation

Contributors who left their last job for a reason not deemed valid by the EI program are not eligible for regular benefits. Among the 867,000 unemployed EI contributors in 2011, 171,000, or 19.8%, had an invalid job separation. This was up slightly from 18.2% in 2010, but below shares observed before the economic downturn.

Among unemployed men who were EI contributors, 20.5% had quit their job for a reason that deemed them unable to collect regular benefits, compared with 18.7% of women contributors.

Provincially, the Prairies had the highest proportions of unemployed contributors with invalid job separations: Alberta, 32.9%; Saskatchewan, 28.7%; and Manitoba, 26.9%. The Atlantic provinces had the lowest proportions.

Employment Insurance eligibility down for both women and men

Of the 695,000 unemployed individuals who had contributed to the EI program and had a valid job separation in 2011, 281,000 were women and 415,000 were men.

Although women represented a smaller share of contributors with a valid job separation than men, they had a larger decline in their eligibility rate between 2010 and 2011. In 2011, 77.0% of these women were eligible for regular EI benefits as they had enough insurable hours, down from 84.4% in 2010. For men, the proportion was 79.4%, down from 83.6% a year earlier.

Eligibility rate down for those aged 25 to 44

Among age groups, the most notable change in 2011 was for those aged 25 to 44, whose eligibility rate declined from 89.9% to 81.7%.

Two factors explain this decline. First, compared with 2010, contributors with a valid job separation who were aged 25 to 44 were less likely to have last worked in a permanent, full-time job in 2011 and were more likely to have last worked in temporary, non-seasonal jobs. Secondly, the average number of hours that contributors with a valid job separation who were of this age group worked in temporary, non-seasonal jobs declined from about 840 hours in 2010 to 640 hours in 2011.

Eligibility rates differ by age group. In 2011, 42.1% of people aged 15 to 24 who had a valid job separation were eligible to receive regular EI benefits. This compares with 81.7% for those aged 25 to 44 and 87.7% for those aged 45 and over. This gap in eligibility between youths and other age groups is consistent over time.

Employment Insurance eligibility by province

In 2011, EI eligibility rates fell in all but four provinces. They increased in Saskatchewan and British Columbia, and were little changed in Newfoundland and Labrador and Prince Edward Island.

Provincial eligibility rates ranged from 73.5% in Manitoba to 93.3% in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Most of the provinces with declines in eligibility rates also had notable declines in the share of EI contributors with a valid job separation who last worked in a permanent, full-time position.

Maternity and parental benefits

Coverage and eligibility of mothers for maternity or parental benefits have varied little since 2003.

In 2011, 76.6% of all recent mothers (with a child aged 12 months or less) had insurable employment, compared with 78.9% in 2010. Among these insured mothers, 88.6% were receiving maternity or parental benefits, unchanged from 2010.

Quebec, which has the Quebec Parental Insurance Plan (QPIP), had the highest share of recent mothers with insurable employment (86.2%) and the highest share of insured recent mothers receiving maternity or parental benefits (97.9%).

For all provinces combined, 29.3% of recent fathers took parental leave in 2011, little changed from both 2009 and 2010.

The QPIP, which was introduced in 2006, continues to have a major impact on the number of fathers who claimed or intended to claim parental benefits. It includes leave that applies exclusively to fathers. The proportion of fathers in Quebec who took or intended to take parental leave has tripled since the introduction of the plan, from 27.8% in 2005 to 83.9% in 2011.

Outside Quebec, 11.0% of recent fathers took or intended to take parental leave in 2011, virtually unchanged from 2010.

Note to readers

The Employment Insurance Coverage Survey sheds light on the coverage of the Employment Insurance (EI) program. It provides a picture of who does or does not have access to EI regular benefits as well as maternity and parental benefits.

To be eligible to receive regular benefits, unemployed individuals have to: (a) have contributed to the EI program, (b) meet the criteria for job separation and (c) have accumulated enough insurable hours.

Job separations that are deemed invalid for regular benefits include, among others, quitting the job voluntarily (including to go to school), illness or disability, pregnancy, other family-related issues, dissatisfaction with the job, and retirement.

The number of insured hours required to qualify for regular benefits varies across regions, ranging from 420 to 700 hours, depending on the region's unemployment rate. The higher the unemployment rate, the lower the number of hours required to qualify for benefits. In addition, hours required are higher (910 hours) for workers who have entered the labour market for the first time and those who have limited work experience in the last two years.

The survey is administered to a sub-sample of respondents of the Labour Force Survey (LFS) four times a year, namely in April, July, November and January. Respondents are asked questions about their situation during the LFS reference week in the month prior to being interviewed (March, June, October and December respectively).

In 2011, the total sample size was 11,910 people, composed of unemployed individuals (as defined by the LFS) and other individuals who, given their recent status in the labour market, were potentially eligible for EI.

The survey is conducted on behalf of Human Resources and Skills Development Canada.

Definitions, data sources and methods: survey number survey number4428.

For more information, contact us (toll-free 1-800-263-1136; infostats@statcan.gc.ca).

To enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact Jason Gilmore (613-951-7118; jason.gilmore@statcan.gc.ca), Labour Statistics Division.