Employment Insurance Coverage Survey, 2021
New data from the 2021 Employment Insurance Coverage Survey (EICS) provide insights into Canadian parents' use of the maternity and parental benefits available under the Employment Insurance (EI) program.
Of all parents with a child aged 18 months or younger in 2021, over four-fifths (84.1%) had employment for which EI premiums were paid before the birth or adoption of their child, compared with 79.7% in 2020. Among these parents, 92.1% had received maternity or parental benefits since the birth or adoption of their child, which changed little from 2020 (92.9%). Among spouses or partners, 42.2% had claimed or intended to claim parental benefits.
Consistent with historical trends, a higher proportion of parents received maternity or parental benefits in Quebec than in the rest of Canada in 2021. Among insured parents in Quebec, where maternity and parental benefits are offered through the Québec Parental Insurance Plan (QPIP), virtually all (99.8%) received benefits, compared with 89.3% in the rest of Canada.
Similarly, the use of paternity and parental benefits among spouses was considerably higher in Quebec than in the rest of Canada in 2021. In Quebec, over three-quarters (76.6%) of spouses or partners had claimed paternity or parental benefits from QPIP, compared with almost 3 in 10 (29.9%) in the other provinces. In 2018, before the introduction of additional leave exclusively for the second parent, 15.0% of spouses or partners outside Quebec with a child aged 12 months or younger claimed parental benefits from the EI program.
Both EI and QPIP offer a choice of maternity and parental benefit plans. In Quebec, in 2021, 82.8% of parents with a child aged 18 months or younger chose the benefit plan that offers approximately one year of combined maternity and parental benefits. The remaining 17.2% of parents chose the QPIP special benefits plan, which provides fewer weeks of benefits, but at a higher income replacement rate.
Outside of Quebec, nearly three-quarters (74.8%) of parents chose the EI parental benefits option that offers approximately one year of benefits when combined with maternity benefits. The remaining one-quarter (25.2%) of parents chose the EI extended parental benefits option, which offers up to 18 months of combined maternity and parental benefits, but at a lower income replacement rate.
Note to readers
The Employment Insurance Coverage Survey provides an overview of who does or does not have access to employment insurance (EI) benefits. This includes both regular benefits as well as maternity and parental benefits. In September 2020, the eligibility criteria for all EI benefits, including maternity and parental leave, were temporarily changed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Pre-pandemic eligibility criteria were partially re-introduced in September 2021 and completely re-introduced in September 2022.
Additionally, in 2021, the EICS questionnaire was updated to ask non-parents if they had received EI or COVID-19 benefits, where previously only EI was collected.
The questionnaire and survey population were redesigned in 2020 to reflect changes in the EI maternity and parental benefits program. The survey population of parents was expanded to include parents of infants aged 18 months or younger and parents who chose to receive EI extended parental benefits.
As a result of these changes, caution should be used when making comparisons with data prior to 2020.
The survey is administered in the provinces to a subsample of respondents of the Labour Force Survey (LFS) in April, July, November and January of each year. Respondents are asked questions about their situation during the LFS reference week in the month before being interviewed (March, June, October and December, respectively). The estimates are produced for the reference year by averaging over the four cycles covered by the survey.
In 2021, the total sample size was 11,809 people, composed of unemployed individuals (as defined by the LFS) and other individuals who, given their recent status in the labour market, were potentially eligible for EI.
The survey is conducted on behalf of Employment and Social Development Canada.
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