Are you earning a living wage? Do you know what a living wage is in your community?
“The living wage is the amount that a family needs to earn in order to meet expenses in a given community,” says Living Wage for Families campaign organizer Deanna Ogle. “The living wage in the North Central BC region is $16.52.”
The North Central region includes Prince George, Vanderhoof, Quesnel and Fort St. James.
In partnership with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives’ BC office, the Living Wage for Families campaign has calculated living wages for six communities across BC, including Metro Vancouver, Victoria and Kamloops, with some surprising results.
In all six communities, the living wage has decreased for the first time in eight years.
Ogle says that’s due to a single federal policy.
“The Canada Child Benefit, which was recently announced by the federal government in their budget, has shifted so that it’s at such a rate that it’s actually offsetting the costs that families are facing and allowing the living wage to go down by 30 cents an hour,” says Ogle. “That’s in spite of increasing expenses. For example, food in the North Central BC region went up by almost $100 a month.”
Ogle says the findings illustrate the considerable effects good public policies can have.
“This is the really interesting part about how public policy can have a positive impact on the lives of working families. Often we think of public policy as a really abstract idea that comes out every year around the budget and then we don’t really hear about it again.”
She says 57 organizations across the province have become certified living wage employers in recent years and the campaign hopes to keep expanding those numbers.
“The [Living Wage for Families] campaign itself has two goals. The first goal is to get employers to sign on to commit to pay all their direct staff and contract staff a living wage,” Ogle says. “The second goal is to talk about positive public policy that can impact the lives of families that aren’t earning a living wage.”
Despite concerns about costs, Ogle says paying workers a living wage is good for everyone.
“We know that when workers earn a living wage, they’re more likely to spend that increased income locally so it is a benefit to small businesses.”
Ogle says she’s encouraged by the leadership shown by the federal government and the efforts of municipalities across BC to support workers and families. She’s says the campaign would love to see the provincial government step up.
“What we’re missing is a commitment from the provincial government on poverty reduction. We’re the only province in Canada without a poverty reduction plan and we think it’s becoming visible to all of us that there is no cohesive plan around how we’re going to reduce or address poverty in our province.”