New living wage shows progress for low-income people

The gap is narrowing between minimum wage and living wage in the Great Trail region. A new report from the Skills Center and Living Wage for Families BC found that the 2021 living wage for Trail and its surrounding communities is $18.15 an hour.

This is a slight decrease from the living wage calculation two years ago, when it was $18.83. Rather than an indication that the cost of living is falling, it signals that there are more financial supports available for low earners.

“The living wage indicates what it costs to live in a community, so if there are more grants and credits available, then that living wage may decrease. This does not mean that the cost of living has gone down, it means that we are taking better care of our low-income earners,” says Morag Carter, Managing Director of the Skills Centre.

“The reality is that many families in the Greater Trail area are earning less than a living wage and are struggling to make ends meet with the rising cost of living,” she says. “The minimum wage is the minimum that an employer must legally pay an employee. A living wage is the minimum wage to keep your employees above the poverty line.

The living wage is calculated as the hourly amount that each of two parents who work with two young children must earn to meet their basic expenses, including rent, childcare, food and transport, when taken into account taxes, credits, deductions and government grants. . Recent government investments in childcare and other policy measures to support families have helped prevent a rise in the living wage.

Steve Morissette, mayor of Fruitvale Village, a living wage workplace, says that for employers, paying a living wage makes sense.

“There are a lot of places looking for workers. It’s an opportunity to promote your company as a living wage employer and entice people to come and work for you,” he says.

“It made sense for Fruitvale to show our commitment to giving everyone the dignity of a living wage. We are committed to providing a good quality of life for our employees and contractors, and to being a leader in raising awareness to poverty issues in our region and in the search for solutions. I am really pleased that Fruitvale is leading the charge for municipalities, both locally and provincially. I hope this will inspire others,” adds Morissette.

“This year’s calculation shows the impact of public policy changes since 2018, including significant investments in child care, the new BC Child Opportunity Benefit and the elimination of MSP premiums, as well as other small changes in government transfers and taxes,” says Anastasia French, Living Wage for Families British Columbia Organizer.

“These changes have helped offset the increase in family spending since 2018, improving affordability for low- and middle-income families with young children, demonstrating the power of good public policy to make life more affordable. for families,” she says.

The Skills Center is a not-for-profit organization that strengthens rural and industrial communities in British Columbia through workplace skills development, training services and social development programs. It offers job training and wellness programs for youth, mature workers and everyone in between to build a caring community of skilled, productive and engaged people.

In 2021, Living Wage for Families BC certified over 100 new employers with living wages across the province, double the amount of any previous year, showing how employers have found paying a living wage was a solution to some of the pandemic-related hiring challenges. lived, says Anastasia French, Living Wage for Families British Columbia Organizer.

Housing remains the most expensive item in the family budget with a median monthly rent for a three-bedroom unit calculated at $1,400. This figure is taken from the Housing Needs Assessment for the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary. This is the average amount Trail residents pay to rent a 3-bedroom property, not the cost of new listings, which has increased significantly in recent years.

Rental costs would have been higher had it not been for the pandemic-related rent freeze introduced by the BC government, prohibiting rent increases between April 1, 2020 and January 1, 2022.

“The pandemic has exposed how dependent our economy is on undervalued and underpaid workers in the service and care sectors,” she says. “Public sector employers such as municipalities, school boards, health authorities and universities as well as private sector businesses can support poverty reduction efforts and pandemic recovery across the province. by increasing wages. It will also boost local economies, as low-income families tend to spend almost all of their income in their communities. »

There are five living wage employers in Greater Trail, including the Skills Centre, Village of Fruitvale, Modern Purair, Community Futures Boundary and Grand Forks Credit Union.

Michael A. Bynum