The living wage in Trail rose by two per cent this year — to $21.55 per hour — the Skills Centre reports.
While an increase is nothing to sneeze at, another figure from Statistics Canada is problematic given it shows the Consumer Price Index (inflation) sits at around four per cent.
Yes, wages have gone up 42 cents per hour in the Trail area. However, everything else, like groceries, has gone up exponentially; costing a family of four as much as $4,000 more than the previous year.
The push for a living wage is a start, given minimum wage is $16.75 per hour. Moreover, the living wage shows the inadequacy of minimum wage, the Skills Centre says.
As the agency points out, the living wage reflects the actual cost of living in a particular community while the minimum wage is set by government, often without regard to the specific costs workers face.
“We advocate for it (living wage) because it is an important starting point and it brings benefits for the employer as well as the employee,” begins Heather Glenn-Dergousoff, poverty reduction project specialist, Skills Centre.
“Living wage employers see lower staff turnover, and it gives employees a decent standard of living that allows for healthier families and communities.”
Despite the increase to $21.55 per hour in Trail, it remains one of the lowest in the Kootenays.
To illustrate how living wage earners continue to struggle locally, the Skills Centre offers comments from a colleague who they’ve agreed to keep anonymous.
“Living wage decreases your financial strain but it still isn’t great. It does help to buy healthier food and participate in some activities. This supports a healthy family unit. It helps with making meeting basic needs with quality,” the person says.
She and her partner fit the living wage example with two incomes and three children, one in high school and two younger children requiring childcare coverage.
“However, when costs of living rise exponentially, the living wage isn’t enough. We still live pay cheque to pay cheque. What we can do regarding kids activities is limited. We cannot keep up with the higher incomes, so often kids get left out of things,” she adds.
“Local expectations on what we can afford are too high.”
Comparatively, the living wage in Golden sits at $25.78, Revelstoke at $24.60, and the Columbia Valley at $22.63.
Only Nelson is lower at $21.14.
The living wage is a tool to assess people’s financial well-being.
“It sets a minimum standard for making ends meet,” Glenn-Dergousoff continues. “It is not a sustainable wage in the long term because it doesn’t account for money to save for retirement or education or buying a home.
“As well, a single parent earning the living wage doesn’t cover all the necessary costs of two or more children.”
There are nearly 400 living wage employers in B.C., including six in the Trail area.
Living Wage BC describes the living wage as the income a worker needs to pay for basic essentials like food and rent, along with the ability to have an active and fulfilling family and personal life.
It is calculated using a basic budget for a two-income family with two young children. The calculation does not include paying off debt, savings for the future or the cost of caring for a loved one such as a parent.
There are government supports in place to help families, such as the Child Care Fee Reduction Initiative. Families with children 12 and under at participating child care facilities (nine listed in the Trail area) are eligible for this reduction. The program is not income tested and parents do not have to apply.
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The Skills Centre is a non-profit strengthening rural and industrial communities and workplaces in BC through workforce skills development, training services, social development and poverty reduction programming. It offers skills training and wellness programs for youth, mature workers and equity deserving groups to build a caring community of skilled, productive and engaged people. The Skills Centre is a living wage employer.