Maintaining an adequate quality of life — without frills — in Victoria requires a minimum hourly wage of $18.07, according to a 2012 report.
A couple with both partners earning that amount and working 35 hours a week could adequately feed, clothe and shelter themselves and two children, the report says.
The family could also participate in ordinary community activities, like kids’ soccer, take off at least two paid weeks a year for illness, own one car and use public transit. They could not, however, afford to purchase a home or save for their children’s education or their own retirement.
Neither could they afford holidays or care for an elderly or a disabled relative. And forget about servicing any loans, debts or credit cards.
The report is part of the Living Wage for Families Campaign and issued by the Community Social Planning Council, a coalition of unions, charities and advocacy agencies. Each year, the campaign releases an updated calculation of living-wage rates for full-time work in several B.C. municipalities, noting the rates could be lower if wages are matched with benefits such as health and dental coverage, daycare subsidies or bus passes.
Victoria’s living-wage rate is less than the $19.14 hourly needed to live in Vancouver and $18.80 for the Sunshine Coast, but came in higher than Kamloops at $17.95, Central Okanagan at $17.17, Qualicum at $16.94, Williams Lake at $15.77 and Cranbrook at $14.16.
The report says 27 per cent of the two-parent, two-children families in Victoria now live on less than the living wage.
Michael McCarthy Flynn, Vancouver-based organizer for the Living Wage For Families Campaign, said it’s important to recognize the living wage is not the same as the provincial minimum wage, which is $10.25 an hour.
The living wage is determined by looking at average local living costs, based on information from established agencies, such as the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corp. for average rents, for example.
McCarthy Flynn said the report shows a number of small measures — rather than just one major fix — could improve life for those on lower incomes.
For example, a small-business owner may be unable to afford to raise hourly wages but could still help close the gap by providing better benefits. Meanwhile, senior governments might assist with better child-care benefits and local government with transportation subsidies.
“When people argue ‘How are you going to pay for this?’ our argument is we are already paying for the consequences,” said McCarthy Flynn, who argues there are social costs such as crime when so many people can’t make ends meet.
In Victoria, Kelly Newhook, executive director of the Together Against Poverty Society, noted the living wage estimate is far more than basic social assistance for a single, employable person, which is $610 a month.
And that’s for someone who can prove they have a home with a rent receipt. Those who can’t only get $235 a month. “Even I have to remind myself this is the reality,” said Newhook. “When you are walking downtown and you see someone with their hand out, it should be no wonder why.
“How can you do anything on $235 a month?”
© Copyright 2013