A report by the District 69 Living Wage for Families Coalition (LWC) finds that the wage needed to raise a family in the Parksville Qualicum Beach area has gone up 24 cents to $17.66 an hour.
The “living wage” is a calculation of the hourly wage that two working parents with two young children must each earn to meet their basic expenses including rent, child care, food, clothing and transportation, once taxes and subsidies are taken into account.
It’s based on a formula created by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, B.C. office, First Call: BC Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition and the local coalition.
“The Oceanside living wage rate only provides for the most basic of a family of four’s expenses,” said Rick Sullivan, LWC secretary. “There is no provision for saving money for the future purchase of a home, or saving for retirement or the children’s education.”
“The most important point is the impact a government-sponsored child care program could have,” he said, explaining that especially “small businesses have a lot of valid questions about whose responsibility child care is. I think everyone’s responsible, so a government sponsored plan is the only thing covered by all of society.”
Child care and shelter costs are the two biggest drivers of the living wage and account for over 42 per cent of the family’s expenses.
“Investing in universal affordable child care would significantly reduce the costs of raising a family and lower the living wage,” Sullivan said. “For example, the proposed $10/day child care plan would reduce the Oceanside living wage by nearly $3 per hour. And a cross-Canada affordable child care system would cost about the same as what the federal government is planning to spend on income splitting and the Universal Child Care Benefit, policies which offer little benefit to low and middle-income families and create no new child care spaces.”
Sullivan said that one in five children in B.C. is poor, and that is largely due to low wages.
In 2011 (the most recent data), one out of every three poor children lived in families where at least one adult had a full-time, full-year job and a majority lived in families with some paid work.
Thirty-seven Canadian communities, including 18 in B.C., have calculated their local living wages. The $17.66 figure is calculated for the local economy compared to $20.05 in Victoria and $20.68 in Vancouver.
In 2012 the local school district became the first in the province to sign on as a living wage organization, but Sullivan pointed out “they have had other pressing issues and they have not made it a policy statement yet.”
Today it is still the only local employer to go that far in committing, Sullivan said, explaining that while school district employees are already above the living wage “it is an important symbolic gesture and it may have an impact on some of their contractors.”
Living wage policies have been adopted by a number of B.C. municipalities, starting with New Westminster in 2010, and companies including Vancity and the international accounting firm KPMG.
Check http://livingwageforfamilies.ca for more information.