Checking our responses to those in need

Now, arguably, women as well as men can apply for the Compassionate Care Benefit and recent evaluations of the program indicate that many more women than men are applying. Since its inception, every year approximately 71% of applicants for the benefit have been women. But the actual numbers of applicants, as we saw earlier, has been very small, a tiny proportion of those in need. [1]

One of the main reasons that the Compassionate Care Benefit is not being widely is the fact that it is based on a definition of population that includes all Canadians who are eligible for employment insurance, rather than a definition of those most in need. Because the CCB is tied to employment insurance (EI), only those who are eligible for EI can receive the benefit. In other words, caregivers who are self-employed, working part-time, engaged in seasonal, temporary, or contract work, and unemployed do not qualify. Women not only provide the bulk of unpaid care, they are also much more likely than men to be unemployed or to have low-waged and unstable jobs and to be ineligible for EI. [2]

The case of the Compassionate Care Benefit demonstrates the importance of an accurate definition of population. Because the program was designed without adequate attention to who needed it and who could get it, the largest group of caregivers – women – are not well-served by it.

Sources: [1] [2] Almey, M. (2005) Women in Canada: Work Chapter Updates,; Osborne, K., & Margo, N. (2005). Analysis and evaluation: Compassionate care benefit. Toronto, ON: Health Council of Canada. Retrieved April 19, 2011, from

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