Looking back over the years during which this fund has been accumulating, it is interesting to notice that up until the end of March, 1951-the end of the ten-year period-the fund had accumulated until it reached approximately $664,500,000. This is an average of $66,458,037 per year, with a low of approximately $44 million and a high of $82 million. Yet in the twelve months ending April 30 of this year the fund has increased by $109,470,000, or an increase of about 25 per cent over the very highest figure by which the fund had increased during the preceding ten years.
When one takes into consideration the fact that the two cents per day addition to the fund must have been responsible for a part of the increase, it would appear that even the increased unemployment and the demands which were made upon the fund this year have not been any particular drain on the reserves. When one also takes into consideration the fact that everything it is necessary to buy today has increased in price,
I am sure the increase in benefits which the minister has announced is on the low side. If I am not mistaken, some of the labour organizations were advocating an increase of about 50 per cent. While the government may have thought that figure high, nevertheless I feel that the slight increase which has been made of $3 on the $21 basis, or about one-seventh, can scarcely be dubbed handsome. I am sure the fund will not suffer by reason of this slight increase.
With regard to the increase in rates, I am a little bit disappointed that the minister did not announce some scheme for taking care of at least a portion of that group which have come to be known as unemployed employables, and of which I spoke at some length a year ago, at the time of the introduction of the labour estimates. As reported at page 2688 of Hansard of May 4, 1951, in describing these people I said:
There are many in this class of unemployed employables who never have been insured. Then there are those who are insured and who, when unemployment hits them, find that they have insufficient contributions to benefit. Regardless of the fact that they may have been paying into this fund for years, they will find that within the limits
of the act, in the period to which they must have reference, they just happen to have an insufficient number of stamps in their book to enable them to apply for unemployment insurance benefits. There are those who fall upon particularly evil days and who receive unemployment insurance benefits but are forced to accept them for a length of time which eventually exhausts the benefits which are due to them.
I realize that the fund can scarcely be expected to take care of those who have never been covered by unemployment insurance, but I do feel that those who have been engaged in insurable employment should have some provision made for them under this act. I trust that the minister is not going to let this matter drop but will inquire into that particular phase before long so that some provision may be made in the Unemployment Insurance Act to care for those who are engaged in insurable employment.
I feel that the increase in the benefits, even in this small way, is bound to be of advantage to the individual and to the municipality about which I shall speak later. The municipality must eventually carry the load caused by any shortcomings in benefits paid under unemployment insurance schemes.
No doubt the reduction in the number of waiting days has been brought about because of the representations made by labour organizations and by various members in this house. The statutory eight days, with one non-compensable day, making nine in all, has worked some hardship on those applying for benefit, but I would draw to the attention of the minister the fact that in many cases even this period is stretched out to as long as three weeks. Whether the fault lies with the department or with the applicant is always a matter of conjecture, but the fact remains that any lengthening of the period causes considerable distress to the applicant and his family. There again the municipality has to step into the picture to ease the load on the applicant until such time as funds become available in the ordinary course of events.
I urge upon the minister that in the studies which are being made special emphasis be placed upon streamlining the operations in the district offices so there can be a more efficient handling of applications and an earlier payment of benefits to applicants. That will need to be looked into particularly now that the time is to be shortened to five days. I presume there would still be one noncompensable day, making it a working week which the applicant must wait before he receives benefits. Any delay in the office places extra strain upon the economic resources of the worker who is unemployed.
I was interested to find that the period of entitlement for supplementary benefits has
been increased by fifteen days. In studying these amendments I could not fail to be impressed with what has happened this year, when we have had the greatest amount of unemployment for a considerable length of time. The pattern of unemployment in Canada is that the peak occurs in the second week in February, but this year the peak of unemployment was two months later.
Using the only source available, registrations for work, it is interesting to note that for the week of February 8, 1951, which was the second week in February, the registrations totalled 303,700. This was 5-83 per cent of our labour force, which was bordering on what we consider to be an unhealthy situation. Two months later this year, on April 3, 1952, the number of unemployed was 385,100 or 7-39 per cent of our labour force. No doubt the fact that the unemployment peak had shifted to a later period when we might expect that construction work and farm demands would have some effect influenced the minister in extending the period of entitlement for a few more days. Whether or not the fifteen days which he has allowed will be sufficient to take up the slack remains to be seen.
In addition to the registrations for employment obtained from the district offices there are those who do not apply at the employment offices and those who are on short time. This latter class has assumed large proportions this year. I do not think any figures are available to indicate just what is the size of this group, but I know that in my own town there are many people on short time, especially in the textile mills and the home appliance factories. It was very difficult to ascertain the extent of this part-time work because of the manner in which various firms computed their periods of employment. Some of them are on an hours per month basis and some are on the basis of a day's work and so on; therefore it was most difficult to arrive at a figure which one could quote. Nevertheless the general picture was not too good, particularly in the industries I have mentioned.
Those who are on part-time do not participate in unemployment insurance benefits to the extent of those who are unemployed. While there is some relief this semi-unemployment has contributed greatly to the load carried by the municipalities. You cannot have a serious impairment of the earning capacity of any group without at the same time having a threat to the economy of the country. I feel that in discussing the unemployment situation cognizance should be taken of this group which I believe is fairly large in all industrial centres. I refer to those
Unemployment Insurance Act on short-time, working either fewer days per week or fewer hours per day.
The minister has indicated certain administrative changes which will be made. I should like to draw to his attention once more the case of the married woman who comes under the regulations provided by section 5 (a) (1). Ninety days are required to re-establish benefit rights. This has been the subject of considerable discussion by labour organizations. Some have advocated that the ninety days be wiped out completely, others have asked that it be reduced to sixty days. I must say that I can recognize the difficulties which would be attendant upon removing this period entirely because in many cases it is very difficult to assess the intention of the individual. Nevertheless I feel that the reduction could be made to sixty days. That would be sufficient time to determine the intention of the applicant to remain in employment. It would safeguard the department in that respect and still reduce the number of days to the point where there probably would not be undue hardship upon those who would be affected.
I believe the day is fast approaching when all these discriminations!, shall we call them, against women in employment will be removed and we will have one set of rules which will apply to everyone. Apparently that time is not yet here and we have to move forward step by step as the occasion provides. I urge the minister to reconsider the representations made to him from different sources and to reduce the ninety days to at least sixty as a start and see how it works out. After it has been in operation for a while surely it will be apparent whether or not advantage is being taken of the leniency.
I said a while ago that I had hoped these amendments would provide some assistance in the field of unemployed employables. While I did read a part of what I said a year ago in this regard, I should like to emphasize once more that this is a problem which affects the municipalities acutely. Every year when we get into what is recognized as the unemployment period in the middle of winter, when the boats cease to operate, construction comes to a standstill and other such things happen that throw men out of work, welfare offices within the municipalities feel the shock. If as in this year and in 1950-I believe that was the last year which was serious, although not as serious as 1952-the appropriations made by municipalities to look after these people are overrun and additional appropriations are required, then the municipalities begin to worry very much about what the final outcome may be. While they can usually see the end in sight for the current season, nevertheless the knowledge is there that there may
Unemployment Insurance Act well come a time when the load will be so great that they will be unable to bear it. I believe it should not be left until in sudden panic a municipality is forced to make a plea to the provincial and federal authorities for aid before this matter is ironed out. I think it is a problem which is with us year after year, and it should be recognized by the federal authorities.
While I realize there is some case for saying that there should be provincial participation, nevertheless it should not be too difficult to achieve some sort of co-operation with the municipal and provincial authorities as a result of which the heavy load which hangs over their heads each year could be lightened to some extent. Certainly the fear of ultimate disaster could be removed by means of the co-operation which they may be led to expect.
There is one other major amendment to the act which I had hoped the minister would introduce this year. Last year when we were talking about unemployment insurance on the estimates- I made the suggestion that the commission should be enlarged by the addition of a woman member. I had hoped the minister might give that suggestion serious consideration -and do something about it. I realize that because of the nature of the composition of the commission it is difficult to achieve this end without appointing an extra commissioner, but I believe there is a very real need for a woman member on the commission. I ask the minister to give the matter serious consideration and see whether the act cannot be amended to provide for four commissioners instead of the present three, and to provide for the manner by which that additional appointment shall be made and by whom.
There are many problems that present themselves to a commission with jurisdiction over the working people of the nation in which the voice of a woman with long experience in employment would be of inestimable value. At this stage of the resolution I urge the minister to give serious consideration to this matter with a view to taking steps shortly to increase the membership of the commission by the appointment of a woman thereto.
Subtopic: AMENDMENT TO INCREASE RATES OF BENEFIT, TO REDUCE THE NUMBER OF WAITING DAYS BEFORE RECEIPT OF BENEFIT, ETC.