Seasonal EI and the future
I have to say I was surprised to read the Globe & Mail editorial today on the future of the EI program. It covered everything: eligibility requirements, maternity/parental leave, gig workers - some thoughtful insights and recommendations - not a single mention of seasonal EI usage.
I get why the politicians don’t want to touch it. In certain ridings 40-50% of households collect EI each year as part of their family income. It’s cultural - multi-generational - but for the G&M editorial to not touch it seems a big strange.
Just yesterday someone told me about a business in the Miramichi area that works around its seasonal workforce. They could be doing business year round but in order to keep a stable and happy workforce, they let everyone go at some point during the year and they bring them back 5 months later. And why not, I was told. No one has quit in years.
Also, just yesterday, I was asking about a young family and was told the husband commutes every day to Fredericton for work. He is a heavy equipment operator and the commute is easily 70-80 minutes one way. It doesn’t bother him too much, I was told, because he gets nearly six months off every year to spend with his three young children.
When I started my career now 30 years ago, one of my first jobs was to profile the available workforce in New Brunswick. I looked at the unemployed, under-employed and those not participating in the workforce to come up with an assessment of the total available workforce. I ran this analysis by the folks in the Dept. of Labour (I think it was Advanced Education and Labour back then) and was told to pull 50,000 out of the number because “they are not going to work year-round ever” and should not be considered ‘available’ for work.
I don’t know what the number is these days - it’s less than 50,000 but it is likely 30,000 to 40,000 - specifically those that work part of the year and collect EI the rest of the year and do this year after year.
The G&M editorial basically confirms this issue is not the radar and will not be touched in the reforms the government is planning to unveil soon.
All I can say is that at the very least we should stop pretending the province has high unemployment. Can we at least do that? Publish the unemployment ‘rate’ every month - example 10% in the Miramichi-Campbellton region and they have a second rate 4% or whatever that backs out an estimate of the seasonal workforce.
Pretending we have high unemployment in pockets across the province leads to many negative impacts.