Victoria’s ‘living wage’ for young families eases — to $71,315

Young families in Greater Victoria struggling to afford an “adequate quality of life” have caught a bit of a break. The “living wage” required to make ends meet fell one cent an hour to $20.01 in 2017 from last year.

The living wage is a tool used by the Community Social Planning Council of Greater Victoria in its campaign to improve the quality of life in the Capital Region, particularly among those disadvantaged due to poverty and distress. It is a non-profit charity founded in 1936.

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The slight decrease in the living wage occurred even as the cost of living rose 2.6 per cent. The main reason is due to increased federal child-care rebates.

A $20.01 wage may seem high but not when it comes to the real costs of raising a family in a high-rent, low-wage area, said Stefanie Hardman, author of a report released Wednesday. That wage must be earned by both parents, working full time.

“Wages are pitifully low” for service jobs that proliferate in Victoria and full-time employment is declining. At the same time, the median rent for family- size units is even higher at $1,550 per month than in Vancouver, Hardman added.

Parents of two young children — one in child care — need to net the $71,315 required for a “bare bones budget,” she stated. After expenses, not including any vacation or debt servicing, there would be about $7 left over for two people earning nearly twice the minimum wage.

Combined wages would total $72,836.40, but after taxes and deductions combined with child credits and other rebates, take-home pay would be $71,315.70 — less than needed for “what is considered normal in our community,” the council found.

The calculation included rent, insurance, two cellphones and Internet, child care, food, clothing, transportation, personal care, household supplies and furnishings, recreation, laundry, banking, toys and a computer.

“Greater Victoria is becoming a region that is simply unaffordable for families raising children,” the council stated.

“Our future is not sustainable, so we all need to work together to drive changes that will allow families to thrive, and employers to attract and retain high-quality workers.”

The reason that inflation hasn’t hit harder is thanks to the 2016 Canada Child Benefit and boost to $13,000 in the maximum claim for child care at a federal level, said the council’s six-page analysis. That change highlights how social policy can provide solutions in the face of market forces that compromise affordability for families, she said.

The calculation leaves no room to save for children’s education, down payment on a house or retirement. It also does not allow for other expenses such as unpaid sick time from work, car ownership or courses to increase earning potential.

Affordability is strained by the high costs of rental housing and MSP premiums, the report noted, with child-care costs “absolutely a huge issue.”

Victoria’s living wage is close to Vancouver’s at $20.62 and higher than Nanaimo at $17.99, Parksville-Qualicum at $16.44 per hour, and low of $15.90 in the Fraser Valley.

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