Research summary- Employment Insurance

Official title: Employment Insurance and the Changing Stability of Employment Relationships

Author of report: Sami Bibi and Eyob Fissuh

Why this study

Popular discussion suggests that recent cohorts of workers face a lower chance of holding stable jobs compared to older cohorts. Past research done by the department also suggests an increase in the incidence of insecure work in Canada. The study’s findings shed some light on the link between changing nature of work and Employment Insurance (EI).

The EI Commissioner for Employers requested this study to supplement the fiscal year 2018 to 2019 EI Monitoring and Assessment Report.

What we did

The study analyzed how the proportion of employees holding multiple jobs at the same time was trending in Canada from 1999 through 2018. For this, we used 2 data sources:

  1. the Labour Force Survey (LFS), and
  2. the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) tax files

The study also examined the number of employers and/or industries that EI claimants from recent birth cohorts worked over a selected timeframe. The study then compared these figures to those figures from earlier birth cohorts.

The study looked at other measures of stable employment, namely the average job tenure and changes in earnings.

The study provided findings for the entire labour force as well as for unemployed persons who receive EI benefits. The study included breakdowns by age group, gender, industry, and skill level.

What we found

The LFS-based findings revealed that the proportion of employees holding multiple jobs at the same time has trended upwards, from 9.1% in 2000 to almost 12% in 2018. The rate increased steadily for all age groups during this period. The increase was highest, however, for older workers between 45 and 64 years of age. Women were more likely than men to hold multiple jobs and this gender gap was more evident among older workers. The study also found increases in the proportion of employees holding multiple jobs at the same time in the majority of industries. The rate of increase, however, varied substantially across industries.

However, using data from the CRA tax files, the study reveals that between 1999 and 2015, the proportion of employees holding multiple jobs at the same time for all employees declined from 18% to 12%. For EI recipients, it decreased from about 7% to 4%.

What it means

The results from this study are relevant to a wide range of policy discussions related to the EI system. Access to EI depends partly on job stability patterns, mainly as demonstrated by holding multiple jobs at the same time. In particular, multiple jobholders working in precarious jobs may have higher risk of not qualifying for EI. This is mainly because they may not accumulate sufficient employable hours from the precarious jobs. For the purpose of the study, precarious jobs include temporary and part-time employment offering few employment benefits with low wages.

These jobs are more common among:

The study found mixed evidence on employment stability in Canada. On one hand, the results from the LFS showed a rising trend in employment instability as measured by the proportion of employees holding multiple jobs at the same time. However, analysis of CRA data showed a downward trend. As well, the results differ widely by:

The findings highlight the need for further research on the changing nature of jobs in Canada. The results could also help formulate labour policies that can mitigate the negative effects of these changes on employees.

Contact us

Skills and Employment Branch, Labour Market Information Directorate, Policy, Research, Analysis and Geomatics Division


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