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Réorganiser les soins de longue durée à la lumière de la pandémie

The catastrophe that occurred in Quebec’s Centres d’hébergement de soins de longue durée (CHSLDs) during the pandemic should have come as no surprise. The problems facing these facilities have long been known, and the pandemic highlighted the extent to which prior health care reforms failed to resolve them. The Quebec government should make urgent reforms to improve the quality of elder care by adopting a three-pronged approach: it should reassess the needs of older adults across the full continuum of care and invest accordingly; review the governance and organization of CHSLDs and bring them up to modern standards; and create a “Qualité Québec” agency to enhance the learning capacity of the province’s health care system and promote the ongoing evaluation of policies and practices.

Designing Paid and Protected Employment Leaves for Short-Term Sickness and Caregiving

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted flaws in Canada’s income-support programs and job-protection laws for sickness and caregiving leaves. Federal, provincial and territorial governments had to enact emergency measures to address serious gaps in the system. With these measures set to expire, policy-makers should take this opportunity to permanently reform Canada’s sickness and caregiving leave regime. When workers decide that they cannot take time off because of inadequate benefits or job protection, the resulting costs are borne by both individuals and society. All persons engaged in paid work should be eligible for paid and protected leave to cover both sickness and caregiving needs.

Transitioning Back to Work: How to Improve EI Working-While-on-Claim Provisions

Canada’s Employment Insurance (EI) program provides income support for workers who have lost their jobs. The program also strives to help recently unemployed Canadians keep a foothold in the labour market and provide a stepping stone to new permanent work. It does so through working-while-on-claim (WWC) provisions that encourage claimants to take part-time or casual jobs and still keep a portion of their EI benefits. The objective is to prevent them from being unemployed for prolonged periods, help them maintain their skills and network of workforce contacts, and demonstrate their commitment to work to prospective employers.

In this study, authors Colin Busby, Stéphanie Lluis and Brian McCall investigate whether working part-time does indeed help EI claimants transition to permanent work. They review evidence from a series of pilot projects that the federal government launched between 2005 and 2018 to determine if adjustments to WWC provisions would encourage more claimants to take up part-time work or to work more hours. They also survey the outcomes of similar provisions in other countries.

The Canadian pilot projects tested two key changes to the WWC provisions. The first raised the threshold of employment earnings claimants are allowed to attain without having their benefits reduced. Compared with prior rules, this change encouraged more claimants to take on temporary work. The second change eliminated the earnings threshold and reduced the rate at which benefits were clawed back on all earnings. This encouraged claimants to take part-time jobs that offered more hours and higher earnings.

As the authors point out, however, the EI administrative data that were used to evaluate the pilot projects provided postclaim job information only for individuals who returned to the EI system with a subsequent claim. The findings were, therefore, based mainly on the behaviour of repeat and seasonal EI claimants. This means that not much is known about those who used the provisions but did not file a subsequent claim, and whether the revised provisions helped them find permanent work.

Research conducted in other countries that have similar working-while-on-claim rules, but collect more comprehensive data, provides a better indication of how the rules affect the ability of claimants — including nonrepeat claimants — to transition to permanent work. An evaluation of the provisions in France found that, for most unemployed workers, taking on part-time work during a claim did indeed act as a stepping stone to permanent work. Similar research in Germany and Belgium suggests that long-term unemployed workers who take up casual or part-time work during a claim are more likely to find permanent employment. In Belgium, researchers found this was especially true for women. However, research findings from other countries suggest that poorly designed provisions may lock some workers into a pattern of part-time or casual work.

Busby, Lluis and McCall conclude that WWC provisions can help unemployed Canadians successfully transfer to permanent jobs. But the rules should be improved and new programs introduced for those unlikely to benefit from part-time, casual work. They urge policy-makers to collect postclaim data for all EI claimants to enable experimenting with the provisions and conducting comprehensive evaluation of how well they support transitions to permanent work.

The authors recommend that policy-makers revise current WWC provisions to reintroduce a fixed weekly allowable earnings threshold below which there is no reduction in benefits, while keeping a modest clawback rate for earnings above the threshold. Canadian and international evidence suggests that, under these proposed rules, more people would be encouraged to work while on claim and many would be encouraged to work additional hours.

They also urge the federal government to make WWC provisions more generous during economic downturns. This recommendation is especially timely as the economy recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic and the massive work interruptions it has caused. During economic recessions, there tend to be more part-time jobs available than full-time. To encourage displaced workers to stay connected to the labour market during such times, policy-makers should temporarily allow claimants to keep more employment earnings without having their EI benefits reduced.

A comprehensive evaluation of EI WWC provisions would help to establish clearly the extent to which these measures support unemployed workers’ transitions back to work. They may be beneficial for some claimants but not for others. For instance, about half of EI claimants choose not to work while on claim. This is likely the case for displaced long-­tenured workers, who may not see the benefit of taking low-paying or part-time work. For them, alternative programs — for example, wage insurance, which subsidizes the take-up of full-time work — may be more appropriate. As Canada’s postpandemic economy enters its recovery phase, this would be an opportune time to introduce and test such measures.

Skills Training That Works: Lessons from Demand-Driven Approaches

The postpandemic economic recovery critically depends on whether the thousands of Canadians who have been laid off are able to regain employment. The 2021 federal budget announced additional funding for skills training and employment supports for those most affected by the economic shutdown. However, there is still a great deal of skepticism about the effectiveness of government-provided training for unemployed and underemployed workers.

In this study, Karen Myers, Simon Harding and Kelly Pasolli argue that doubts about the usefulness of spending public dollars on skills training are based on outdated perceptions stemming from past evaluations of large-scale training programs whose methodology is now being questioned. As part of their review of over 30 years worth of evidence from the United States and other countries, the authors identify the problems associated with these earlier evaluations and highlight the more nuanced conclusions of research led by practitioners in the past decade on what sort of training works, under what conditions and for whom. The key insight from this research is that government-sponsored skills training can be effective, and that it is most effective when it is aligned with employers’ needs and delivers the skills that are in demand in local labour markets.

Especially promising are two demand-informed training models that have been adopted widely in the US: sector-based training and Career Pathways. Looking at the effects of these approaches to training on participants’ employment prospects and earnings, Myers and her colleagues point to key factors that help explain their success, notably establishing close collaboration with employers to identify in-demand skills, carefully selecting training candidates interested in entering specific sectors, ensuring flexibility in training program delivery, and providing wraparound supports such as child care and career advice to mitigate the barriers to training faced by working-age adults.

The authors conclude that the sector-based and Career Pathways training models could play an important role in Canada’s labour market policy response to the pandemic. However, leveraging these models to their full potential presents challenges for policy-makers, researchers and practitioners. To better align Canada’s skills development systems with employers’ needs and changing labour markets, the authors recommend that policy-makers actively explore the feasibility of applying these models in the Canadian context; test and scale up those that show promise; and commit to learning what works. Building the necessary infrastructure, including strong networks among training providers and employers, and producing up-to-date labour market information will also be important.

These broad recommendations should serve as essential starting points for the substantive and long overdue discussion that key stakeholders need to have on how to ensure that Canada’s skills development systems become more flexible and responsive to the constantly evolving skill needs of workers and employers alike.

Assessing Cash-for-Care Benefits to Support Aging at Home in Canada

Canada’s long-term care (LTC) system needs an overhaul. Most older Canadians have only limited access to care that is often of poor quality and fragmented. There are long wait times for admission to LTC institutions, and many who receive care at home report having unmet needs. As a result, family and friends often have to fill the gaps, and many wear themselves out trying to balance caregiving tasks with work and other family responsibilities. The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare these long-standing flaws in the system, flaws that risk being exacerbated as the number of the frail elderly grows in the coming years.

In this study, a group of leading scholars led by Colleen Flood argue that the challenge facing Canada’s policy-makers is to not only adequately meet the growing needs for LTC services, but also to ensure that those services are delivered where people want to receive them, most often at home. Of course, governments have to improve the quality and safety of care in LTC homes for those who require institutional care. But to avoid unnecessary or unwanted admissions to those institutions, they must also increase funding for formal home care and improve supports for informal caregivers.

The authors investigate a funding solution that is internationally popular: cash-for-care benefits, which are direct public transfers paid to LTC recipients (or their caregivers) to support care at home, whether it is provided by health care workers or by family and friends. Just over half of all OECD countries offer cash benefits to LTC recipients. These benefits give them more control over how their care is organized and provided, and hence more autonomy.

Looking at the experiences of Germany and the Netherlands where cash benefit programs are widely used, Flood and her co-authors find that these benefits are an important part of integrated public insurance plans covering the full range of LTC services. Cash benefits uptake is high in both countries, but it is greater in Germany, where their use is less regulated. Soon after these benefits were introduced, public spending on LTC surged in both countries. In recent years, the Netherlands has put in place a series of measures to curb growing program costs, as well as to address other issues such as concerns about the quality of care provided due to recipients’ tendency to rely on untrained caregivers to provide services that should be the domain of health professionals.

The authors conclude that cash benefits hold promise as part of the solution for enhancing supports for home care in Canada. But they are not sufficient on their own: they must be part of a suite of initiatives that includes investing in the quality and safety of care in LTC institutions, improving access to formal home care, and better supporting informal home care. Policy-makers need to proceed with caution, however, and find the sweet spot for cash-for-care benefits. The objective should be to help maximize care recipients’ autonomy, address unmet LTC needs, and improve care quality, while minimizing the potential disadvantages for informal caregivers. As the authors point out, these caregivers are mostly women, and a much greater proportion of women work full-time in Canada than in Germany and the Netherlands. This calls for additional measures to be put in place in Canada to help mitigate the impact on women’s longer-term financial security, should cash benefits encourage them to take on more caregiving duties and reduce their participation in the labour market. Examples of such measures are strengthening job-protected leave legislation and supplementing Canada Pension Plan contributions for caregivers.

Demographic pressures loom, and they risk exacerbating the long-standing failures in Canada’s LTC systems. Provincial and territorial governments must move quickly to enhance the full spectrum of long-term care services and provide better support to Canadians who wish to age at home.

Adjusting to Job Loss When Times Are Tough

It has been almost a year since the COVID-19 pandemic began in early 2020, forcing thousands of workers out of jobs in Canada —  many of them permanently. Although emergency income-support programs were introduced fairly quickly, they were meant to be temporary. With mass vaccination on the horizon, now may be the time to start thinking about long-term policies that will help displaced workers adjust to post­pandemic economic realities. A wide range of such policies already exists in Canada, including temporary income replacement, training and assistance with job search. What is less well known, however, is what workers do to improve their situations, especially when employment opportunities are scarce — as they are now and are likely to remain until the pandemic’s effects subside.

This study by Statistics Canada researchers René Morissette and Theresa Hanqing Qiu documents the use of four adjustment strategies by Canadian workers permanently laid off in 2009 — in the middle of the last recession: moving to another region, enrolling in post-secondary education, signing up for a registered apprenticeship and becoming self-employed. The authors examine whether the adoption of strategies varied according to workers’ characteristics and their employment status a year after job loss, and to what extent it differed in the short and long terms.

Looking at adjustment patterns in the first and fifth years after job loss, the authors find that, overall, only a minority of displaced workers — at most one in five — adopted at least one of these strategies. The use of adjustment strategies varied considerably depending on gender, age, education and other characteristics. For instance, in the first year after job loss, the most common strategy among laid-off women was to enrol in post-secondary education, whereas among men it was to move to another region. Five years after job loss, moving was the predominant strategy for both genders. Older displaced workers were less likely to move to another region or invest in skills, in both the short and long terms. Those with more education were more likely to become self-­employed or pursue post-secondary education, especially if they already had university degrees. Compared with displaced workers born in Canada, immigrants — especially women — were less likely to move to another region, in both the short and long terms, whereas recent immigrant men were more likely to start a business, but only in the long term. Compared with laid-off workers who were re-­employed in the year after job loss, those without jobs were more likely to adopt at least one adjustment strategy during the entire five-year period. Still, less than half of them (42 percent) did so at some point during that time.

As to whether job loss per se induced a large behavioural response on the part of displaced workers —  that is, led them to make greater use of adjustment strategies — that does not appear to be the case. Although those who lost their jobs in 2009 were more likely than those who were not laid off to adopt at least one of these strategies, the difference was rather small. And the impact of job loss was more pronounced among workers who had more education than it was among those who had less.

Documenting and quantifying the adoption of various adjustment strategies is a first step in improving our understanding of workers’ behaviour after job loss. Each strategy has pros and cons to be considered. And identifying the predominant strategies can shed light on the wide array of incentives and barriers people face when responding to job loss, especially when employment options are scarce. In the postpandemic world, the findings of this study will be especially relevant for informing the development of policies to support displaced workers.

Are New Technologies Changing the Nature of Work? The Evidence So Far

In recent years, ground breaking advances in artificial intelligence and their implications for automation technology have fuelled speculation that the very nature of work is being altered in unprecedented ways. News headlines regularly refer to the ”changing nature of work,” but what does it mean? Is there evidence that work has already been transformed by the new technologies? And if so, are these changes more dramatic than those experienced before?

In this paper, Kristyn Frank and Marc Frenette offer insights on these questions, based on the new research they conducted with their colleague Zhe Yang at Statistics Canada. Two aspects of work are under the microscope: the mix of work activities (or tasks) that constitute a job, and the mix of jobs in the economy. If new automation technologies are indeed changing the nature of work, the authors argue, then nonautomatable tasks should be increasingly important, and employment should be shifting toward occupations primarily involving such tasks.

According to the authors, nonroutine cognitive tasks (analytical or interpersonal) did become more important between 2011 and 2018. However, the changes were relatively modest, ranging from a 1.5 percent increase in the average importance of establishing and maintaining interpersonal relationships, to a 3.7 percent increase in analyzing data or information. Routine cognitive tasks — such as data entry — also gained importance, but these gains were even smaller. The picture is less clear for routine manual tasks, as the importance of tasks for which the pace is determined by the speed of equipment declined by close to 3 percent, whereas other tasks in that category became slightly more important.

Looking at longer-term shifts in overall employment, between 1987 and 2018, the authors find a gradual increase in the share of workers employed in occupations associated with nonroutine tasks, and a decline in routine-task-related occupations. The most pronounced shift in employment was away from production, craft, repair and operative occupations toward managerial, professional and technical occupations. However, they note that this shift to nonroutine occupations was not more pronounced between 2011 and 2018 than it was in the preceding decades. For instance, the share of employment in managerial, professional and technical occupations increased by 1.8 percentage points between 2011 and 2018, compared with a 6 percentage point increase between 1987 and 2010.

Most sociodemographic groups experienced the shift toward nonroutine jobs, although there were some exceptions. For instance, the employment share of workers in managerial, professional and technical occupations increased for all workers, but much more so for women than for men. Interestingly, there was a decline in the employment shares of workers in these occupations among those with a post-­secondary education. The explanation for this lies in the major increase over the past three decades in the proportion of workers with post-secondary education, which led some of them to move into jobs for which they are overqualified.

The authors explain that these employment shifts may be caused by factors — other than technology-induced demand for skills — that change the industrial structure of the economy. For example, higher demand for health services due to population aging may increase the share of employment in health-related occupations. Their analyses show that these other factors explain most of the increase in employment share in service occupations, about two-thirds of the decrease in production, craft, repair and operative occupations, and roughly 40 percent of the increase in managerial, professional and technical occupations. Their estimates of changes in the average importance of various tasks, nevertheless, remain significant.

It is important that policy-makers be informed of the evolution of the nature of work as new technologies are further integrated into the workplace, given the potential implications for policy development. This study has shown that, although recent advances in automation technologies have affected what workers do on the job and which occupations they work in, overall, the changes are not substantive. In other words, it may be premature to conclude that new technologies have altered the nature of work.

Expert Views in the Media during Canadian and Swedish Elections: Educative or Entertaining?

Journalists who interview experts are motivated to select quotations that attract and entertain news consumers. This paper examines whether there is a relationship between how often experts appear in the media and the educational content of their quotes. The authors analysed quotes from experts in four Canadian and four Swedish newspapers during the national election campaigns held between 2000 and 2015. They conclude that newspapers prefer experts whose quotes are entertaining, at the expense of experts who can educate the public. The differences between Canada and Sweden are minimal. This suggests there are powerful forces that transcend national borders at work, including growing competition among media organizations.

Mapping Canada’s Training Ecosystem: Much Needed and Long Overdue

The Government of Canada has recently increased investments in skills development to help Canadians prepare for the post-pandemic recovery and the future of work. However, these measures may have little impact without actionable data on the training options that can connect workers to in-demand jobs. To address this issue, Canada needs a comprehensive information system to link training, skills and jobs. This paper is a call to action for employers, training providers and government agencies of all levels to work together to lay the foundation of a robust pan-Canadian mapping of training and employment opportunities.

Lifting Singles Out of Deep Poverty: The Case for Increasing Social Assistance Benefits

Poverty reduction measures implemented by Canadian governments over the last two decades have improved the lives of many seniors, single parents and families with children. However, one group has been left behind: employable singles without dependants. In 2016, just under half of the nearly 2 million Canadians living in deep poverty were singles. One reason for this is the provinces’ long-standing policy of providing them with only bare-bones benefits to discourage their reliance on social assistance and make paid work more attractive. However, close analysis of the factors that affect social assistance caseloads indicates that the generosity of benefits plays only a modest role. Increased income supports for singles are urgently needed to counter the effects of deep poverty that prevent them from moving forward.