We all have experienced the dramatic change in the economy over the past few years. The Covid-19 pandemic economic shut-down and supply chain challenges, followed by a steep rise in inflation, and resulting interest rate increases have made it more and more challenging for the average person to make ends meet.
Imagine trying to get by on a minimum wage, particularly if you are supporting a family. The challenges and obstacles faced by those making minimum wage can be dire – a choice between food in the cupboard or a roof over their heads. There is an alternative to minimum wage, and it’s become an appealing idea to employers who want to ensure that their employees have a better quality of life. A living wage is the hourly wage a worker needs to earn to cover their basic expenses and participate in their community. In the province of Ontario, minimum wage is currently $16.55. In Waterloo region, the living wage for 2023 has been updated to $20.90.
A living wage is not the same as minimum wage, which is the legislated minimum all employers must pay and is set by the provincial government. The living wage reflects what people need to earn to cover the actual costs of living in their specific city or town. The living wage draws on community-specific data to determine the expenses of a family with two working adults and two children, a single mother, and a single adult. It is also a call to private and public sector employers to pay wages, to both direct and contract employees, sufficient to provide the basics for families with children.
Living wage employers voluntarily decide to pay a living wage and maintain their certification as new rates are calculated in their area. Communities across Ontario use the National Living Wage Framework to calculate their local living wage rate. This standardized framework was developed by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, and allows living wage estimates to be meaningfully compared between different communities.
Make no mistake. Although the living wage gets families out of poverty by providing a basic level of security, it is bare bones. There is still no room for some of the extras that many Canadians take for granted such as a family vacation, piano lessons, or saving for education or retirement. However, the greater the level of social provision – things the government provides such as public health care and subsidized public transit – the lower the private wage that parents must earn in order to support their families at a decent, minimal standard of living.
November 6-12 is Living Wage Week and Kindred Credit Union is proud to be a Living Wage Champion. We were one of the Living Wage Waterloo Region steering committee’s founding members and an early adopter. Paying a living wage aligns with our values and we believe our members would expect nothing less in caring for our staff members. It’s another way that Kindred is inspiring peaceful, just, and prosperous communities.