Top News

A ‘living wage’ would benefit us all

Did You Know That with Alan Walter
Did You Know That with Alan Walter

The current Nova Scotia minimum hourly wage of $10.70 is a number that sits at a few cents more than the previous year, which in turn was a few cents more than the year before that, and so it goes, with no justification to support it as being fair and reasonable.

It also maintains the status quo, which threatens social harmony at a time when we see yet more income disparity in our economy. Witness this week’s headline, “Top 60 Canadian CEOs paid almost 159 times the average worker's salary last year”.

It also maintains the status quo, which threatens social harmony at a time when we see yet more income disparity in our economy. Witness this week’s headline, “Top 60 Canadian CEOs paid almost 159 times the average worker's salary last year”.

In contrast, a detailed study just released by the Canadian Institute for Policy Initiatives has calculated a “living wage” that would allow families to adequately house and feed themselves, and better support the development of their children in both their health and education, which would be of great benefit to the community at large.

They determined that a “living wage” hourly rate of $17.30 will meet these minimum needs based on living costs in smaller communities like Amherst.

They base this number on a family of four, in a rental home, with one school-age child and one in day-care, and both parents working full time with 35 hours of work per week and 52 weeks of paid employment each year. It assumes government deductions and benefits are considered in arriving at this number. The well-researched details are in the report on-line.

It’s a bare-bones budget with no allowance for personal savings, home or pet ownership, debt interest repayment, special food preferences, recreational travel, etc.

The total income available at this hourly rate with both parents working would total $61, 543 annually. Not out of line considering the median family income in Canada is $76,000. Recognise that these wages are not handouts; they are earned, and there is no more employment security provided than with any other job.

Where do we go from here? Maybe listen to the experiences of living wage adopters such as Josie Rudderham, co-owner of the Cake and Loaf bakery in Hamilton, employing 17 workers now making $18 an hour.

Ms. Rudderham said that staffers who held two jobs to make ends meet quit their second jobs and now show up to work less stressed and exhausted. Even though December was the bakery’s hardest month “productivity went way up helping us to take on more business with the same staff,” she said, adding that “If you pay low wages, you save on labour costs day to day, but you get high turnover and employees who have no reason to make your company succeed”.

Government of course is the main actor in all this, and it must recognise the societal benefits of transforming the minimum wage into a living wage, and the sooner the better.

There will be objections from some with predictions of lay-offs and business closures. However, research shows that when minimum wages are significantly increased, particularly in the service and food business, there is a period of adjustment and companies do hire less, mainly affecting part-time teenage workers, but the adult full-time employment rate remains much the same.

 

Alan Walter is a retired professional engineer living in Oxford. He was born in Wales and worked in Halifax. He spends much of his time in Oxford, where he operates a small farm. He can be reached at alanwalter@eastlink.ca

 

Recent Stories