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Fast Facts on Employment Insurance and Women

February 28, 2019 Fast Facts

Changes to the former Unemployment Insurance program in 1996 hit unemployed workers hard - women in particular. Since then, there has been a drastic decrease in the number of women who are eligible for EI.

That means that many women who have paid into the program and are expecting to have support if they lose their jobs are left with nothing.

Here are some the specific ways in which our EI system disadvantages women:

Qualifying for benefits:

About 75% of part time workers are women. But women are less likely to qualify because part time workers must work much longer to accumulate the required hours.

Lower benefits:

Benefits were once equal to 66.7% of insurable salaries. This has been reduced to 55%, for a maximum of $562 per week in 2019. But women still earn much less income than men. This is especially true for women who are racialized, Indigenous, disabled and/or migrants. As a result, they then receive lower amounts of EI benefits.

Shorter benefit periods:

Even when qualified, women on average receive EI benefits for a shorter period than men do. That’s because they typically work shorter hours due to family care responsibilities. And predominantly female occupations tend to provide fewer hours of work.

Unfair exclusions:

Workers who resign or who are fired for “misconduct” are generally not eligible to receive EI. Women are more likely to leave their jobs to fulfill family care responsibilities or because they are experiencing harassment at work. So,women tend to be unfairly disadvantaged by these exclusions.

What can be done?

Jackie Esmonde and Nabila Qureshi are staff lawyers at the Income Security Advocacy Centre (ISAC).

They say it is long past time for change in the Employment Insurance program and  note that women in Québec are leading the way.

They have looked at ideas put forward by a Montreal based organization called Mouvement Autonome et Solidaire des Sans-Emploi (MASSE)

With a federal election coming this October, the problem of the E.I. program’s discrimination against women needs to be front and centre.

There are many ways that you can help. Find out how at





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