EI reform: I have questions

The Government of Canada announced today substantial changes in Employment Insurance and the qualifying criteria. While it was always that a person receiving EI was expected to continue to look for suitable work, now those receiving EI or applying for EI will be forced to take work regardless of skill set or training. 

The Canadian government has released limited information, but what they have said indicates this is an attempt reduce dependency on/employment of Temporary Foreign Workers.

Finley said she wanted to ensure that “employers consider Canadians before hiring temporary foreign workers.” Only once the local supply has been exhausted will employers be allowed to look offshore for workers.

I pose a few questions regarding this:

1. Are most TFW truly only temporary, or have they come to Canada for a new life, a new culture and new opportunities in hopes of making it their permanent home?

2. Are employers going to be pushed to hire an unsuitable “Canadian” over a more suitable TFW, because of these new restrictions?

Granted, my depth of knowledge of TFW is limited, but from what I understand this is hardly a Canadian issue. This is a worldwide issue. We chose to trade in a global economy, but our government doesn’t want to hire in a global economy? It is fine for Canada to ship raw bitumen to China for upgrading – providing thousands of long term, stable jobs in that country but not fine for a company to hire a TFW, perhaps from China?

On the other side of the coin, what does it really mean for Canadians? Already, many are faced with the choice to get a education is something they are passionate about – perhaps a degree that isn’t directly applicable to resource based industry; or get an education in something Shell Oil will hire you for.

In Alberta students are encouraged to pursue higher education in a field that would be employable in oil and gas. That is if you get an education at all. Many young Albertans simply choose to leave school and work in the oil patch where high risk can mean high financial rewards – with 20 year olds making upwards of $80 000.00 a year. Even in the PSE sector, there has been a continual de-prioritization of critical liberal education models and an increased effort to fast track quick skill training. The Alberta government has rapidly supported and approved the development of specific programs that train exclusively for the oil and gas industry. 

Youth are already facing high unemployment and difficulty in finding meaningful work. Many have a University degree. Placing EI recipients in short term, high turnover employment does not truly solve the employment crisis. It creates false statistics that show reduction in unemployment cyclically, when in the long term it narrows the employment field and de-incentives diversifying industry.

It could also create a culture of discontent. When people are forced to work in industries they don’t support, or in jobs they are unsatisfied in, they are less likely to throw 100 per cent into that employment offer. Bad jobs (and they are out there Flahrety) often see high turnover.

Will these new restrictions actually change anything? Will employment go up? Will industry take a chance to hire individuals who have gapped work record? Or, will it only further stigmatize those who are EI recipients?

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