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Income support programs and labour market behaviour in Canada Whelan, Stephen Patrick

Abstract

Income support programs constitute an integral component of modern labour markets and represent significant fiscal commitments on the part of governments. This thesis examines two key income support programs in Canada and their impact on labour market outcomes, namely employment insurance (EI) and social assistance (SA). Together expenditures on EI and SA represented approximately 2 per cent of Canadian GDP in 1998-99 and influenced a range of labour market decisions relating to labour force participation, employment and unemployment spells. The analysis in this thesis provides new evidence on the role of the EI and SA programs on labour market outcomes by examining the interface between the programs and labour market behaviour. An analysis of the take-up of SA amongst a sample of SA eligible individuals is also undertaken that provides new evidence on the determinants of participation in the SA program in Canada. The analysis in this thesis uses the 1997 Canadian Out of Employment Panel dataset, a unique dataset that provides detailed information on the use of income support programs and employment patterns, and detailed information on a rich set of personal and household characteristics. The approach adopted in this thesis is to use a generalized probability transition model to examine the nature of the interface between income support programs and their effect on labour market outcomes. This approach allows the implications of changes in either program for use of the other program, and overall labour market outcomes, to be identified. The analysis of the SA take-up decision uses a discrete choice framework that explicitly takes account of the potential endogeneity of benefit levels available to the individual. A number of conclusions can be drawn from the analysis undertaken in this thesis. First, when the generosity of the SA program is reduced, individuals decrease use of both the SA and EI programs. Conversely, reducing the generosity of the EI program results in an increase in the use, albeit relatively small, of the SA program. The results of the analysis of the take-up decision of the SA program point to the key role of benefit levels and previous use of the program as determinants of the likelihood that an individual takes up SA.

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