EDITORIAL: Living wage a misnomer; where’s the quality of life?

So, as of today the living wage in Victoria is $20.50 per hour. Define living.

Calculated by the Community Social Planning Council of Greater Victoria, the model averaged a two-parent family with two children. After shelter, clothing, food, transportation and medical expenses, a staggering $6.18 would be left over each year.

Enough for a coffee, maybe two, depending on where you like to get your bean.

But what about when your car breaks down, when your hydro rates soar, when ICBC decides to increase your rates, when avocados jump from $0.79 a piece to $2.49?

The largest demographic in Victoria is what is now called the “working poor.” Along with buzzwords like “affordable” and “living wage,” it’s a relative term. It seems impossible that some group calculator somewhere can hit the equal button and accurately represent the struggles of full-time working people in 2018.

The rising cost of gas is pricing many people off the road, the rising cost of rent has priced many out of the housing market and when childcare busts your wallet open for roughly $15,000 a year for two children – it’s enough to make many think twice about starting a family.

There is a reason our food banks and other social support services around the region are finding themselves busier every year.

Calculating a living wage is tricky business. It can be leveraged as a benchmark for employers to offer fair compensation, but does it indicate a fair quality of life?

Announcing that the living wage in Victoria is now $20.50 per hour should come with a warning that says: “As long as nothing goes awry.”

And, at the end of the day, what was the message of hope? The living wage is only going to increase next year.

So, perhaps we should call it what it is – the cost of living.

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