Social Planning Cowichan calculates that the difference between a living wage and minimum wage for a couple in the Cowichan Valley is $34,777.
That is a huge discrepancy.
For anyone who has tried to survive on minimum wage, or who knows someone who does, this comes as no surprise.
Minimum wage, which was designed so that everyone who was working would be able to actually live on what they were making, hasn’t actually assured that in a long time.
That’s why we now have to talk about a living wage at all.
Most people with minimum wage jobs work several of them to try to make ends meet, and even then they don’t necessarily succeed in doing so.
There’s also the fact that many minimum wage jobs are not full time. Some businesses carefully calculate their employees’ hours so that they don’t reach that full-time threshold, so the company doesn’t have to start paying out benefits and the like above salary.
Then of course there’s the proliferation of contract work.
While British Columbia has had some raises in the minimum wage in recent years, we still have lowest minimum wage in Canada.
That’s set to change in September when the minimum wage gets a lift to $10.85 per hour from $10.45 per hour.
Still, those extra few cents per hour, welcome as they will be for low-wage workers, don’t begin to cover the rise in the cost of living over the last decade.
Hydro costs have gone up. Food bills are significantly more — over $300 per year according to the BC Food Report.
And the availability of affordable housing has never been particularly good.
The major argument against raising the minimum wage significantly to more reflect the cost of living has always been that it would hurt small business. And it’s not an insignificant issue.
But we just don’t believe that folks working full time should have to go to the food bank because they can’t afford to feed themselves, or choose between putting food on the table and heating their home in the winter.
Nor should they be forced to live in squalor because their housing budget doesn’t run to a clean, safe, and reliable roof over their heads.
People who are working hard deserve to at least be able to pay for the basics. And right now, the ends don’t meet.
Cowichan Valley Citizen