02/02/2016 08:44 EST | Updated 02/02/2017 05:12 EST

Employment Insurance Covers Only Half Of Canadians, Reform Needed: C.D. Howe

Canada also needs to focus on developing a more highly skilled workforce, study says.


OTTAWA — The C.D. Howe Institute says reforms to employment insurance and moves to develop a more highly skilled workforce can help Canada's labour market adjust to weakened economic conditions.

The Toronto-based think-tank says the federal government should make changes to EI because the program only covers about half of unemployed Canadians.

The document's author, Craig Alexander, argues that Ottawa should replace its regionally based criteria for EI with eligibility and benefits rules that are uniform across the country.

Canada's jobless rate has risen from lows seen in 2014 and 2015. (StatsCan chart)

Alexander also says Canada must focus on creating a more highly skilled workforce as a way to increase productivity. He says such positions made up virtually all net job creation between 1999 and 2012.

The former chief economist at TD Bank (TSX:TD) says the labour force is facing a number of challenges, including globalization, an aging population and technological changes — all factors that have been compounded by the steep slide in commodity prices.

Meanwhile, the report notes that in recent years Canada has seen a shift toward more precarious types of employment such as temporary, self-employed and part-time jobs.

The new Liberal government has promised reforms to the EI program, including reducing the waiting time for benefits to one week from two.

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