Canadian Labour Congress

Canadian Labour Congress

May 08, 2009 11:03 ET

Georgetti Says Workers Forced Into Self-Employment

CLC President challenges Parliament to fix EI now

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - May 8, 2009) - Thousands of workers were forced to turn to self-employment in April 2009 because they can't find jobs or get Employment Insurance, says Canadian Labour Congress president Ken Georgetti.

"We're seeing unemployed workers, especially older workers, turning to self-employment in desperation. There is little out there in the way of job creation and far too many people can't get Employment Insurance."

Georgetti was responding to the release by Statistics Canada of labour force figures for April. The level of employment increased by 35,900, due entirely to the rise in self-employment. "This is not a sign of economic recovery because we actually lost 1,100 jobs in April. What we are seeing is workers doing whatever they can to get by during this economic crisis. I salute their courage and determination."

Statistics Canada data shows that almost 60% of unemployed workers are not receiving EI benefits. Georgetti says that is not acceptable and he renewed his call for improvements to EI. He said there is a growing national consensus in favour of EI reform. "People are telling pollsters that EI should be improved, newspapers are saying the same thing, and the opposition parties are threatening an election on the issue. The Prime Minister and his cabinet are the only ones who seem prepared to allow unemployed Canadians to fend for themselves."

The CLC has repeatedly called on the government to:

- change accessibility rules to provide regular EI benefits on the basis of 360 hours of work, no matter where people live and work in Canada.

- make all workers eligible for up to 50 weeks of EI benefits.

- raise benefits immediately to 60% of earnings calculated on a worker's best 12 weeks of earnings.

Quick Analysis from Senior Economist, Sylvain Schetagne

Many Canadian workers were forced to turn to self-employment in April 2009 as a means of surviving the economic crisis. Overall, the level of employment increased by 35,900 during the month. There were actually 1,100 jobs lost, but 37,000 workers turned to self-employment due to an absence of job creation, our weak Employment Insurance program, and declining pension protection and revenue.

The unemployment rate remains at 8.0%, despite the fact that an additional 8,000 Canadians were unemployed in April 2009. The broadest measure of unemployment (R8), which includes discouraged workers and involuntary part-time workers, is rising rapidly. It rose from 8.0% in October 2008 to 12.4% in March 2009. (These data are not seasonally adjusted, but the "real" rate of unemployment was also up sharply compared to March 2008).

Workers aged 15 to 24 have been leaving the labour market in order to avoid unemployment. About two-thirds of the growth in employment was among Canadians aged 55 and over. The fact that self-employment increased significantly last month may be a sign that many of those aged 55 and older are coming back to work because of losses in their pension income, or because they have exhausted their Employment Insurance benefits after being laid off. Thirdly, this is a sign of courage and determination by laid-off workers who are trying to avoid being unemployed during this economic crisis.

Canada now has over 1,464,600 unemployed men and women. This represents an increase of 27.2% since last October.

The number of full-time jobs lost since October 2008: 347,400.

Canadian workers who have been laid-off since October 2008: 320,700.

The Canadian Labour Congress, the national voice of the labour movement, represents 3.2 million Canadian workers. The CLC brings together Canada's national and international unions along with the provincial and territorial federations of labour and 130 district labour councils. Web site:

Contact Information

  • Canadian Labour Congress
    Sylvain Schetagne
    Senior Economist
    Canadian Labour Congress
    Dennis Gruending
    613-526-7431 or 613-878-6040