Can one problem help solve another?
A report issued by the Greater Victoria Social Planning Council says two parents must each be earning at least $18 an hour to maintain adequate quality of life for a family in the region.
Obviously, many families on the South Island fall short of that level. The report calls on employers and governments to take steps to improve life for those with lower incomes.
On another front, B.C.’s universities say thousands of skilled jobs will go unfilled in the next few years, drawing on the government’s own report that states: “By 2016, the number of workers needed in B.C. is expected to exceed the number of workers available provincewide.” The universities urge the government to increase investment in post-secondary education to meet that shortage.
On one hand, too little income for some people. On the other, too few candidates for well-paid jobs. At first glance, it would seem that one problem could cancel the other one out.
That’s an overly simplistic look at the situation, of course, but it would be a mistake not to consider the potential of examining the two issues together.
The report issued as part of the Living Wage for Families Campaign says two parents each working 35 hours a week need to earn $18.07 an hour in the Victoria region to adequately feed, clothe and shelter themselves and two children. It doesn’t leave room to buy a house, save for their children’s education or their own retirement, take vacations, or care for an elderly or disabled relative. The wage would also not allow for servicing any loans or credit-card debt.
According to B.C. government statistics, the average hourly wage in the province in February 2012 was $23.77. That’s above the living wage, but it means many working families who might make enough for day-to-day living have little prospect of getting ahead.
The Living Wage report suggests employers try to meet the living-wage level, or at least provide better benefits. It calls on senior governments to assist with such things as better child-care benefits and municipal governments to provide transportation subsidies.
No doubt those fixes would alleviate some of the strain, but it would be far better to help people increase their earning power through more training and education.
A lower-paying full-time job is a bit of a trap — you make enough to get by, but you don’t have the time or the money to pursue the education that will allow you to break out of the cycle.
The university coalition asks the government to spend $130 million over four years to add more spaces for college and trade students, as well as more undergraduate and graduate students. It also suggests another $51 million a year be spent in aid, so all qualified students can attend college or university. There’s hope in that for those who don’t make the living wage, or who can’t get ahead.
No government program should substitute for individual initiative, nor should anyone think they can get ahead without some personal sacrifice. But sometimes people stuck at the bottom just need a ladder to climb to a better place. Handing them that ladder is a good investment.
It’s unrealistic to suggest that those stuck in low-income jobs could fill all the skilled vacancies anticipated for B.C., but it’s not unreasonable to hope that one deficiency can be a factor in erasing the other.
© Copyright 2013