The Cowichan Valley is the eighth most expensive place for a family to live according to a comparison of 18 B.C. communities, included in the a 2016 Living Wage Report published by Social Planning Cowichan (SPC).
Two parents working full time have to each have an hourly wage of $18.81 to achieve income security, the report states. That’s the amount they have to earn to meet monthly expenses the SPC calculates add up to $5,520.
Living wages in cities like Vancouver ($20.64) and Victoria ($20.02) have to be even higher to make ends meet, but remote communities like Clayoquot Sound ($19.27) and Golden ($20.46) are also more expensive.
In the lexicon of family incomes, a ‘living wage’ is one that affords a healthy standard of living, and that makes it possible for families to break the cycle of poverty.
“A living wage is the hourly pay a family would need to receive in order to cover basic expenses such as food, clothing, rental housing, transportation, childcare, and a small amount of savings for illness or emergencies,” says the SPC report, which is posted at socialplanningcowichan.org.
“The living wage calculation considers factors that promote healthy child development, the ability to participate in activities that are an ordinary element of life in a community, as well as avoiding the chronic stress of living in poverty.”
B.C.’s minimum wage and its poverty line do not come close to the standard set by a living wage.
The ‘poverty line’ in B.C. in 2015 for a two parent family of four was pegged at $39,196 in 2015; that compares to an income of $66,240 needed to meet the monthly expenses calculated in the living wage report.
But B.C.’s minimum wage of $10.45, the lowest in Canada, would not bring in enough to get a two parent working family of four over even the low bar of the poverty line, according to the SPC report.
“Two parents with two children, both working full-time, full-year at the current minimum wage would have earned $38,038 in 2015, leaving them $1,158 below the before-tax poverty line of $39,196 for this family.”
In areas, like the Cowichan Valley, where the cost of living is higher, the discrepancy becomes even more stark.