The community campaign for a living wage has received
another boost with the release of new research showing that workers in
Vancouver need at least $16.74 an hour – and $16.39 an hour in Victoria – to
support their families.
The living wage calculation was released by the Canadian
Centre for Policy Alternatives, First Call: BC Child and Youth Advocacy
Coalition, and the Community Social Planning Council of Greater Victoria at a
September 25 news conference.
Noting that B.C. has had the highest child poverty rate in
Canada for the past five years, First Call’s Adrienne Montani told the news
conference that a living wage is fundamental to the struggle to eliminate child
poverty in our communities.
“For those who seek to end child poverty, this is truly
where the rubber hits the road,” she said. “What does it say about our economy
when families are doing all the right things – working hard and working long
hours – and yet have to choose between paying the rent or putting food on the
Erna Calingasan, an HEU member and food service worker
employed by Sodexo, told the news conference that she holds down two jobs and works
12 hours a day, sometimes seven days a week, just to make ends meet for herself
and her son.
Unlike the legislated minimum wage, the living wage
calculation is based on what it costs a two-earner family with two young
children to meet such basic expenses as housing, food, child care and
transportation. It allows families to escape poverty and severe financial
stress, ensure healthy child development, and participate fully in their
But according to CCPA researcher Seth Klein, the calculation
is still a modest one. It does not include, for example, debt payments, savings
for retirement, home ownership, savings for higher education or anything beyond
minimal recreation and entertainment.
“One of the guiding principles of the project,” he
explained, “was that it had to be reasonable and conservative.”
He said the living wage is first and foremost a call to
private and public-sector employers to sustain families, but is also a call to
government for programs and services that can help shift certain costs off the
shoulders of individual families.
“For example, if we had a universal public child care system
for children under six years old,” he said, “the living wage calculation would
no longer have to include over $600 per month in child care costs.”
The report also pointed out that a
living wage benefits employers, as well as workers and their families. Living
wages, explained Klein, are shown to improve recruitment and retention, enhance
workers’ morale and create opportunities for employers to promote themselves as
a living wage business or agency.
The study, Working for a Living Wage: Ensuring Paid Work
Meets Basic Family Needs in Vancouver and Victoria, is a joint initiative of
the CCPA and Simon Fraser University’s Economic Security Project.