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The Self-Employment Benefit (SEB) programme provides eligible unemployed people with financial assistance, counselling and technical advice for the early stages of business creation. The programme is funded by the Canada Provincial Governments Labour Market Agreements. SEB programmes and services vary by region and are delivered by the Community Business Development Corporation.



The Self-Employment Benefit (SEB) programme was developed to encourage self-employment among the unemployed across Canada. A precursor to SEB was the Self-Employment Incentive (SEI) programme, launched in the late 1980s to address the needs of the unemployed in rural and northern Canada, particularly women, youth and indigenous peoples.  Following the success of the early schemes, the SEB programme was developed and made accessible to the unemployed across Canada.


Key Activities

The SEB programme allows the regional partners to use different programme designs and delivery models to tailor services to the needs of the local community.  As such, SEB services differ across the provinces but often include an orientation, information sessions, workshops, coaching, mentoring, and access to tailored business training to enable participants to develop and implement their business plans.

An example of implementation of the SEB programme is the one carried out by the Community Business Development Corporation, which is responsible for business support for the Atlantic Provinces (i.e. New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island). Their SEB programme helps unemployed people pursue entrepreneurship and self-employment through a support programme of up to 40 weeks. To be eligible for the programme, an aspiring entrepreneur must be unemployed or employed less than 20 hours per week, on average, over the past year. They must also have a current or recent (less than 60 months) Employment Insurance (EI) claim and have been employed with gross insurable annual earnings of CAD 2 000 (EUR 1 500) or higher in at least 5 of the last 10 years. In the Atlantic Provinces, participants in the programme may continue to receive the regular EI benefits until the end of their benefit period, after which it is possible to receive a living allowance until the end of the self-employment agreement. Participants are expected to make financial contribution towards the launch and operation of the business.


The National Study of the Design and Delivery of the Self-Employment Benefit programme evaluated the impacts of the programme for the period 2010 to 2017 through a participant survey. The report finds that participants increased their employability from 59% employability in the year before the programme to 74% at the time of the survey (i.e. two to four years following the end of the programme). Moreover, nearly half of survey respondents (1 365 participants) launched a business and pursued self-employment that was still in operation in winter 2020. Half of the businesses launched were in the Other services; Professional, scientific and technical services; and Construction and Retail trade. Among those who created a business, 68% were still in operation after two to four years post-SEB programme, while 4% had sold their business, but the business was still operational. However, 24% of survey respondents reported that they were unable to maintain the business operations that they had started as part of the SEB programme.