Minimum wage versus living wage

On the 1st of September the Alberta government raised its minimum wage 25¢ to $10.20.

Dear Editor,

On the 1st of September the Alberta government raised its minimum wage 25¢ to $10.20. All Canadian provinces currently are in the $10.00 ballpark area in paying the hourly minimum wage, though, the highest minimum wage at $11:00 is in Ontario and Nunavut. A minimum wage is set by provincial governments. Employers legally cannot pay their workers less. Many employers, of course, pay more than the minimum wage.

The difference between and minimum wage and a living wage, though, is significant. Almost everywhere, a living wage is considerably higher than the minimum wage. A living wage is what it actually costs to support yourself and your family in a full time job in a particular community. For instance, in Ontario though the minimum wage is $11, a living wage in Hamilton, for instance, in $14.95. In Toronto, it is $16.60.

Communities and provinces naturally differ in the costs of rents, groceries or utilities. For instance, a litre of milk, according to recent figures, is almost 50c more expensive in Edmonton than in Regina; the same difference exists in the price of a loaf of bread in those two communities. Rents, too, are higher, in Edmonton than Regina by more than 6%. Should this be recognized when wage decisions are made? It seems reasonable, but I would also say more than that. If employers cannot pay a living wage, should they at least come as close to it as they can? How much of their profits and potential business growth would be eaten away by making the living wage a focus of their wage decisions? Having to juggle their business accounts, their potential for growth and their profits and focus on a living wage makes for a complicated balancing act. But then having high standards of workmanship, pride in one’s business practices and a committed and a loyal group of employees is not something to be sneezed at.

George Jason