Early Results From Major Study Show That Communities Can Create Meaningful Jobs

November 28, 2006

Ottawa — Can communities create meaningful work that is an attractive alternative to Employment Insurance and welfare? A major Canadian study of a new, innovative program is showing this to be true. Today the Social Research and Demonstration Corporation (SRDC) is releasing a new report presenting early impacts from the Community Employment Innovation Project (CEIP), a study of a program designed to encourage the longer-term employability of participants while supporting local community development in areas of continuing high unemployment. Communities were challenged to utilize the social economy as a source of jobs, which would provide participants with opportunities for developing skills and social capital.

CEIP is testing an “active” re-employment strategy in the form of a “community wage” paid to unemployed people who volunteered to work on community-based projects in exchange for their entitlements to Employment Insurance (EI) or Income Assistance (IA). CEIP offered individuals work on community projects for up to three years, giving them a significant period of stable income as well as an opportunity to gain work experience, acquire new skills, and expand their network of contacts. At the same time, an important feature of CEIP’s design is the central role given to communities in that they were responsible for identifying and prioritizing their local needs and then developing projects that would employ CEIP workers to meet those needs.

SRDC’s research report shows that communities were able to create jobs that were an attractive alternative to EI and welfare and that had positive effects on those who took part. The program provided a significant period of stable full-time employment to both EI and IA program group members, over and above what they would have achieved without the program. Impacts on their earnings were substantial, as were reductions in their reliance on EI and IA. This translated into increased income for participants and large reductions in poverty. CEIP also led to small increases in social capital and volunteering activity, while improving life satisfaction and attitudes towards work.

These results are promising but only preliminary in that they were measured near the mid-point of participants’ eligibility for the program. The effect of CEIP on participants’ longer-term market outcomes and quality of life will be addressed later in subsequent reports. The next planned report will draw on data from the 40-month follow-up survey, which is four months after the end of CEIP eligibility. Then data from the final 54-month follow-up survey, administered over a year and half after the end of the program, will be used to assess the longer-run impacts.

CEIP was implemented in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality in Nova Scotia beginning in 1999. The project was conceived by Human Resources and Social Development Canada (HRSDC) and is funded jointly by HRSDC and the Nova Scotia Department of Community Services. The project is managed by SRDC, a non-profit social policy research organization that specializes in developing, implementing, and evaluating large-scale, long-term demonstration projects to test innovative social policies and programs.

Testing a Community-Based Jobs Strategy for the Unemployed: Early Impacts of the Community Employment Innovation Project is available free of charge (click here) for download or in hard copy by contacting SRDC at info@srdc.org.