A new report has found that the living wage in Metro Vancouver has risen by 58 cents over the past year to a new baseline of $20.68 per hour.
According to Working for a Living Wage 2015: Making Paid Work Meet Basic Family Needs in Vancouver, a report published in the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, the findings are based on the hourly wage required for two working parents with two young children to meet essential expenses such as rent, child care, food and transportation. Government taxes, credits, deductions and subsidies are already accounted for.
“The living wage is one of the most powerful tools available to address this troubling state of poverty amid plenty in B.C.,” reads the report. “It allows us to get serious about reducing child poverty, and ensures that families who are working hard get what they deserve—a fair shake, and a life that’s about more than a constant struggle to get by.”
“A living wage is not the same as the minimum wage, which is the legal minimum all employers must pay. The living wage sets a higher test—it reflects what earners in a family need to bring home, based on the actual costs of living in a specific community.”
The increase from $20.10 per hour in 2014 to $20.68 per hour in 2015 marks a rate of increase of 2.9 per cent, more than double the 1.1 per cent general inflation rate in Vancouver.
“The Metro Vancouver living wage rate demonstrates what many families already know: costs are increasing at a rate much faster than any increases in wages,” said Deanna Ogle, spokesperson with the Living Wage for Families Campaign, in a statement. “Thanks to the combination of a low-wage economy and lack of government supports, many families are struggling to make ends meet.”
The report notes that parents in households with low incomes are much more likely to be chronically stressed, suffer from poor health and receive more health care services. Children living with parents that are chronically stressed are more likely than other youth to have a tough time socially and in school.
The living wage drops by nearly 20 per cent for the Fraser Valley with its 2015 living wage of $17.27. Greater Victoria’s rate sits at $20.05, fairing only slightly better than Metro Vancouver.
Living wages in British Columbia
Here’s a breakdown of the report’s bare bones living budget for Metro Vancouver:
FOOD: $783/month (based on estimates by the Provincial Health Services Authority for a nutritious diet).
CLOTHING AND FOOTWEAR: $191/month. SHELTER: $1,573/month (includes conservative rent estimate for a three-bedroom apartment, utilities, telephone, and insurance on home contents).
TRANSPORTATION: $517/month (includes the amortized cost of owning and operating a used car as well as a two-zone bus pass for one of the parents, replaced by a discounted student transit pass, the U-Pass, for eight months of the year).
CHILD CARE: $1,324/month (for a four-year-old in full-time care, a seven-year-old in before and after school care, full-time care during winter break (one week, the other assumed covered by the statutory holidays and informal arrangements) and spring break (two weeks), and six weeks of full-time summer care). Notably, child care is the second most expensive item in the living wage family budget after shelter.
MEDICAL SERVICES PLAN (MSP) PREMIUMS: $144/month.
NON-MSP HEALTH CARE: $139/month (the cost of a basic extended health and dental plan with Pacific Blue Cross Insurance; does not include expenses only partially covered by the insurance plan). PARENTS’ EDUCATION: $91/month (allows for two college courses per year).
CONTINGENCY FUND: $241/month (two weeks’ wages for each parent, which provides some cushion for unexpected events like the serious illness of a family member, transition time between jobs, etc.).
OTHER HOUSEHOLD EXPENSES: $734/month (covers toiletries and personal care, furniture, household supplies, laundry, school supplies and fees, bank fees, some reading materials, Internet, minimal recreation and entertainment, family outings (for example to museums and cultural events), birthday presents, modest family vacation and some sports and/or arts classes for the children). This living wage calculation does not cover: