The cost of a raising a family in B.C. has gone up this year, but advocates say it would have been higher if not for reductions in health care and child care costs.
In its latest report, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) states that the living wage varies between $16.51 for those in north central B.C. to $20.91 in Metro Vancouver.
The living wage represents the hourly wage that two working parents with two young children must earn to meet their basic expenses including rent, child care, food and transportation, with calculations including the costs for government taxes, credits, deductions and subsidies have been taken into account.
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Keeping in trend with last year, child care and housing costs continue to be the two biggest costs in the living wage calculation, according to the annual report released Wednesday. The report is published in partnership with First Call: BC Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition and the Living Wage for Families Campaign.
Co-author and CCPA senior economist Iglika Ivanova said that while a wage of $20/hr seems high, that’s based on a bare-bones budget for a family of four in Metro Vancouver.
“There’s a big gap between the wages many of our neighbours earn and the real costs of raising a family,” she said.
“About 32 per cent of Metro Vancouver two-parent families with two children had incomes less than the living wage according to the most-recent Statistics Canada data available.”
The report says that family costs would have been even higher if it wasn’t for the NDP government’s slash to MSP premiums and the new child care subsidy that can mean savings of $900 this year for parents with children aged three to five.
Housing trends share heavy weight in living wage needs
While Metro Vancouver’s living wage saw the slight increase of 30 cents, other regions hit by the the affordable housing crisis saw more staggering increases, according to the CCPA calculations.
In the Fraser Valley, where housing has now also reached benchmark prices of above $1 million, as well as a less-than-1 per cent rental rate, the living wage is now $17.40, up from $15.90. That’s the biggest jump in recent living wage calculations.
On Vancouver Island, Victoria’s 2018 living wage is $20.50, a 49-cent increase from $20.01 in years prior.
That’s compared to the Comox Valley, where the CCPA report says the living wage is $16.59.
In Kamloops, $17.31 is the new living wage standard, up from $16.90.
Revelstoke costs calculate to the highest necessary wage for a tourism-based community, at $19.37.
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About 110 employers across B.C. are paying employees a living wage, according to the Living Wage for Families Campaign.
That includes 11 municipalities, Huu-ay-aht First Nations and the United Way of the Lower Mainland.
Mark Thompson, a retired Sauder School of Business professor, said the living wage has for a long time served as a calculation that gives those in the labour market a way to place upward pressure on their employers and government to increase wages.
“It’s a statement of social policy, really,” he said.
While it doesn’t have a huge effect on immediate changes, he said, it can offer municipalities a standard when introducing its own living wage for staff and employees and set an example for other employers.
For the rest of the working class in the province, minimum wage stands at $11.35 and is set to increase to $12.65 on June 1.
“The province is moving in that direction, considering minimum wage was essentially frozen for about a decade.”