Benefit helped low-wage workers, industries hurt worse by pandemic
It looks like the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) program did help those workers who needed it the most in 2020, according to data released by Statistics Canada.
Among those who earned at least $5,000 in 2019, 35.2 per cent received CERB payments in 2020.
Slightly more women (36.3 per cent) received the benefit than men (34.2 per cent), and the benefit went to workers in the industries most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic:
- accommodation and food services (66.6 per cent)
- arts, entertainment and recreation (62.7 per cent)
- administrative and support, waste management and remediation services (44.0 per cent)
- construction (43.4 per cent)
- retail trade (42.9 per cent)
Fewer workers in health care and social assistance (31.6 per cent) and educational services (26.3 per cent), along with utilities (7.0 per cent) or public administration (11.7 per cent), says the government.
When the CERB program ended, the Canada Recovery Benefit came into effect to provide weekly cash assistance, along with the CRCB and the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB).
Income, age groups
When it comes to earnings, more than half of the bottom 10 per cent (55.3 per cent) and the second (57.3 per cent) and third (53.7 per cent) deciles of earnings received the benefit. The percentage becomes smaller as the earnings go higher, with just 11.3 per cent of the top decile receiving CERB.
The CERB was most beneficial to younger workers. Among men, it helped 50.4 per cent of 15- to 24-year-olds, 37.3 per cent of 25- to 34-year-olds, 31.2 per cent of 35- to 44-year-olds and 29.3 per cent of 45- to 54-year-olds. It also helped 30.3 per cent of 55- to 64-year-olds and 28.6 per cent among those 65 and older.
Among women, it helped 53.9 per cent of 15- to 24-year-olds, 37.8 per cent of 25- to 34-year-olds, 34.0 per cent of 35- to 44-year-olds and 31.8 per cent of 45- to 54-year-olds. It also helped 31.8 per cent of 55- to 64-year-olds and 28.2 per cent among those 65 and older.
“Since the percentage of CERB recipients was 35.2 per cent in 2020 and since recipients received payments for an average of 17 weeks, the average number of weeks of CERB receipt per worker amounted to six weeks,” according to StatCan.
“All the aforementioned patterns — higher percentages of CERB recipients in some provinces, among young workers, low-paid workers and workers employed in accommodation and food services and arts, entertainment and recreation — hold when the average number of weeks of CERB receipt per worker is considered.”
More than 200,000 people who received the benefit would face higher taxes, according to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA). In September 2020, an economist warned that more than two million Canadians will be worse off transitioning from the CERB to EI.