CERB was about more than just money
A new study from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives examines COVID benefit's impact on recipients' education and job prospects.
Much ink has been spilled since the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), which provided monthly $2,000 deposits to Canadians who lost work due to the pandemic (including this author), was rolled out in April 2020.
National Post columnist John Ivison warned us COVID payments “risk turning workers into welfare slackers.” Toronto Sun crime reporter Sam Pazzano, citing anonymous sources, suggested CERB was leading to increased gang violence.
Meanwhile, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business published a survey, asking business owners why their workers weren’t returning to work, with 62% complaining it was because of CERB. No workers were consulted.
A new study from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) and the Future Skills Centre shows that CERB not only helped workers survive during the early days of the pandemic, but actually assisted many in upgrading their skill set to obtain better work.
The report is a culmination of focus groups and a series of online surveys involving 1,500 CERB recipients from July to December 2022.
“We just thought the story on CERB hadn't been fully told and that it actually would be useful to talk to actual people who were on CERB about how they viewed the program and what their experience was,” Katherine Scott, a senior CCPA researcher who co-authored the report, told The Orchard.
According to the report:
70% of CERB recipients said CERB had a positive impact on their household finances.
80% continued looking for work while receiving CERB.
67% said it helped them deal with the stress of the pandemic.
60% said it enabled them to take care of sick relatives.
49% said it assisted them in re-entering the job market.
37% pursued new education or training to assist them in their career ambitions.
72% of those who pursued further education while on CERB said they wouldn’t have been able to do so without income support.
By putting recipients in a position to reevaluate their career path, CERB had a qualitative liberatory impact, Scott noted:
For a large group of workers, there was an opportunity to take stock and say, “I'm interested in looking at pursuing something else. Do I want to go back to this same job, or do I want to look for something with a higher income, better wages and better working conditions?”
According to the study, 41% of recipients surveyed experienced a career change when they returned to the job market, including 35% who changed employers, 31% who changed positions and 30% who entered a new profession.
Of those who made the change, 48% said their new job suits their skill set better, 50% were more satisfied with their new career, 48% said they have better job security and 46% make more income.
The report, however, did note that the educational and career advancement opportunities of CERB weren’t shared equally by all demographics.
Many women, particularly those between the ages of 30 and 44, reported that caregiving responsibilities hindered their ability to pursue further education.
The majority of recipients didn’t use the opportunity to further their education or skills training, with 61% of those who didn’t explicitly citing financial constraints.
To Scott, these findings don’t reflect shortcomings of CERB so much as the need to improve accessibility for child care and post-secondary education, both of which would play an important role in creating a “runway for people to move to different jobs or employment opportunities.”
The inequities in who was able to take full advantage of CERB do, however, suggest that a universal basic income, which CERB was in practice, isn’t the panacea some of its proponents suggest.
“CERB wasn’t a magic bullet, but it was a pretty good showing,” Scott said. “At times when people are beating up on the program, we can say, ‘You know what, we did something really amazing together in 2020, and lots of people benefited.’”
Read the report in full here.
Basic human rights aren’t a matter of opinion
On Jan. 13, the Saint John Telegraph-Journal published a story on polling data that shows more than half of Canadians believe schools have an obligation to inform parents if their kids are trans.
This piece of culture war clickbait, which there’s no way in hell I’m linking to, is framed around New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs’ new policy forcing teachers to out students to their parents if the students wish to change their names or pronouns.
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