Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to answer the question on behalf of the hon. Secretary of State.
Overall the EI system is working and it is there for whom it is intended. My remarks will give a good indication of the extent to which it is working.
The 2002 monitoring and assessment report found that 88% of paid employees would have been eligible to collect EI if they had lost their jobs or quit with just cause.
EI coverage for women is high. Coverage for men, which is 96%, and for women, which is 95%, working full time is nearly identical. Among part time workers, coverage for women, which is 55%, is actually higher than for men, which is 41%.
Almost 900,000 women accessed the EI program in 2001. About 72% of special benefit claimants were women. Over two-thirds of family supplement recipients were women.
Switching to an hours based system in 1996, changes to the re-entrance provision and the clawback, and doubling maternity and parental benefits from six months to one year have particularly benefited women.
In December 2000 entrance requirements for special benefits were reduced from 700 hours to 600 hours benefiting again many more women. This resulted in approximately 18,000 new special benefit claims in 2001-02 as compared to the preceding year.
Since January 2001 parents have the flexibility they need to stay home with their babies for up to one year. Early evidence shows that Canadians are taking advantage of this enhanced support.
We are pleased that our efforts to improve support to working Canadian parents are making a difference. More than 200,000 Canadians accessed maternity and parental benefits in 2001-02, an increase of 17.7% for parental benefits and 9.9% for maternity benefits.
The best way to help women is to provide them with opportunities to participate in a positive manner in the Canadian economy and it is working. More and more women are finding and keeping jobs. In fact the hon. member may need only look at the economic record of the government to see that conditions have improved for Canadian workers, both men and women.
Since 1996 we have created 2.2 million new jobs, an increase of 16.1%. Six hundred and sixty-two thousand jobs have been created for women since 1996, an increase of 14.2%.
The unemployment rate for adult women was 6.4% in August, lower than the national average which was 8%.
According to StatsCan, labour force attachment is now 67.5%, close to the highest level in 12 years. Labour force attachment for adult women is now 60.7%.
These figures show that the system is working and is in fact promoting a higher economic confidence among Canadians.