A working couple will need to earn at least $18.77 an hour each to adequately raise two young children in Revelstoke, says the latest report on living wages in British Columbia.
“While I don’t think too many people are surprised by this figure at this point, it is a reminder that despite all of the economic success Revelstoke has seen, we have major challenges around affordability, housing, and food security that need to be addressed,” says Community Futures Development Corporation manager Kevin Dorrius. “Being involved in the update calculation of Revelstoke’s living wage has been one of the most thought provoking exercises I have been involved with in my career in Community Development. I am looking forward to engaging in a positive community wide discussion in seeking innovative and sustainable solutions to these community challenges.”
The report, entitled Working for a Living Wage 2017, was produced by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. It notes that living wage calculations have decreased; locally the calculation has gone down by 10 cents from the calculation for Revelstoke, which was $18.87 in 2014. Even so, Vancouver, Victoria and isolated regions like Clayoquot Sound are the only regions in BC that have require higher living wages than Revelstoke. (See the graph below.)
“In Revelstoke, the big influences are the cost of housing, food and other things like gas prices,” says the City Social Development Coordinator Jill Zacharias. “I am not surprised that the large centres like Metro Vancouver and Victoria, and very isolated regions like Clayoquot Sound, are the only places in BC higher than Revelstoke. Being a resort community, we have the combined influences of ‘big city’ factors as well as those of an isolated community.”
She said our local living wage calculation is a “modest figure that uses very conservative measures for the cost of housing (CMHC Rental Market Survey), and food (regional average from 2015 Cost of Eating Report), and basic costing for social inclusion, but does not include savings for school or retirement or emergencies.
“Using the latest taxfiler data available (2014) and comparing total actual incomes to our cost of living analysis, we now know that 33% of ‘couple families with children’ in our community have total incomes below a living wage (total needed is about $68,500). This is just below Metro Vancouver, where 34% of families have incomes below a living wage.”
Some readers wondered why the report did not include single adults and seniors. Here’s what Zacharias had to say:
“The way it works, is that the market basket is considered an average. While it is understood that single people may not have the expenses that a family of four incurs, the cost of living for a single person is higher because there is no one to share those costs — particularly for shelter.
“When we did the MBM (Market Basket Measure) breakdown a few years ago, we did do a different MBM for a variety of household types and the family unit that has the highest MBM / financial strain are single parents. Of course, if a household has more than two children their costs are also higher.
“So while we know that some households will have higher costs, some will have lower costs, so it averages out.”
The MBM is a measure of low income based on the cost of a specific basket of goods and services representing a modest, basic standard of living. It includes the costs of food, clothing, footwear, transportation, shelter and other expenses for a family of two adults aged 25-49 and two children (aged 9 and 13). Please click here to find out more about the Market Basket Measure.
Zacharias also said there was some concern that “if we calculate a living wage for different household units and some end up being lower than others, it may lead to discriminatory hiring practices.”
Here are the living wages determined for various communities across the province:
|Community||Living Wage||Year Calculated|
|Victoria (Capital Regional District)||$20.01||2017|
|North East BC (Dawson Creek, Chetwyn, Tumbler Ridge)||$18.29||2017|
|Parksville/Qualicum (District 69)||$16.44||2017|
|North Central BC (Prince George, Quesnel)||$16.39||2017|
|Lower Columbia Region||$18.21||2016|
|100 Mile House||$17.45||2016|
|Port Alberni/Huu-ay-aht First Nation||$17.22||2014|
Over 80 companies, unions, local governments and non-profits across BC, employing more than 8,000 workers and covering many thousands more contracted service workers, have been certified as Living Wage Employers. Please click here to see the list.
Working poverty is a Canada-wide issue. Over 50 communities across the country, including 20 in BC like Revelstoke, have active living wage campaigns and are advocating to improve the quality of life for low-wage workers.