- Communities across Canada are embracing a living wage
November 2-8, 2014 is Living Wage Week in Canada and the UK - the livinig wage is a global movement. Thirty cities in four provinces have engaged in local discussions on how to create living wage communities.
In Canada today, more than 1.8 million employed people don’t earn enough at their jobs to pull themselves and their families above the poverty line: they are working and poor. Paying employees a living wage can change that for millions of Canadians and employers in about 30 cities are set to do just that.
Living wage initiatives are based on the premise that work should lift workers out of poverty. Living wage is the amount of money an employee at a job needs to earn to cover the cost of basic necessities and to adequately participate in community life.
Unlike provincially mandated minimum wages, the living wage calculation sets an evidence-based standard that calculates the costs of living in communities based on a basket of goods and services. Minimum wage legislation simply does not come close to meeting the actual cost of living for individuals or families but a living wage can make a world of difference in health outcomes and quality of life.
The Living Wage amount varies across the country due to differences in costs of living and government transfers as it is based on local costs for goods such as food, housing, transportation and childcare. In Greater Victoria, the 2014 Living Wage benchmark is $18.93 per hour, based on a 35 hour work week. (More information: http://www.communitycouncil.ca/initiatives/livingwage)
The greatest concern for affordability in Greater Victoria is the cost of housing: the shelter component is the largest expense in the Living Wage calculation. A lack of affordable housing, combined with low wage work, puts families at risk of homelessness or in the position of making difficult choices between rent, food, heat and other necessities. A recent report from the Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness about family homelessness points to this issue: “The most frequent reasons cited for experiencing homelessness and housing instability by families was lost or inadequate income and/or unaffordable housing.”[i]
A Living Wage Employer is a workplace that has committed to ensuring all regular and contract staff are earning the Living Wage or higher on an hourly basis once benefits and leave provisions are accounted for. New Westminster, B.C. became the first municipality in Canada to officially become a Living Wage Employer in 2010. Vancity Credit Union and the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board are two of Canada’s largest private and public sector employers to sign living wage declarations.
Across Canada, employers are adopting living wage policies because it is good for their employees and good for their bottom line. When living wages are paid, staff turnover and absenteeism is reduced while productivity dramatically increases. Proponents see living wage as a win for healthier, more prosperous communities. The Community Social Planning Council, itself a certified Living Wage Employer, is a resource for supporting local employers who wish to explore Living Wage certification and policies.
Find all the living wage communities in Canada here: http://www.livingwagecanada.ca/index.php/blog/living-wage-community/
by Susan Low
Community Social Planning Council
[i] Albert, M., Pauly, B. et al. “The Cycle of Impossibility: Pathways into and out of Family Homelessness”. Greater Victoria Coalition to End Homelessness, 2014. Accessed November 2, 2014 from: http://victoriahomelessness.ca/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Cycle-of-Impos...