EI for Self-Employed Artists & Cultural Workers

A report examining the new EI program for Self-Employed peoples.

“Self-employment is an employment status increasingly found across the entire labour force: it has been and remains a mainstay of many in the culture sector who represent 6.3% of all self-employed in Canada. It is necessary to devise approaches to support self-employed cultural workers by developing a mechanism, within government or the sector itself, to improve access to basic social benefits ….”

According to 2001 census data and various statistical studies on the cultural labour force, the number of professional artists is growing rapidly; a high proportion of artists are self-employed; artists are highly-educated but their earnings remain low; and their income can fluctuate dramatically from year to year. In addition, most artists do not have access to the social benefits generally enjoyed by other Canadian workers, including paid vacations and holidays, income maintenance when there is no work or they are sick; maternity/paternity and adoption leave; medical, dental and life insurance; and pension plans.

In November 2009, the Canadian government announced that self-employed Canadians will be able to enroll in the Employment Insurance program and become eligible to receive these EI special benefits effective January 1, 2011:

• Maternity Benefits
• Parental Benefits
• Compassionate Care Benefits
• Sickness Benefits

This report examines this new program to determine its relevance for the cultural community and the likelihood that freelance artists and other cultural workers will enroll.