British Columbia

Living wage in Metro Vancouver and Victoria is now over $20/hour: report

People who work in Metro Vancouver and Victoria need to earn more than $20.52 an hour in order to meet the most basic costs of raising a family, according to a new report.

Rate calculated by Living Wage for Families Campaign is much higher than B.C.'s minimum wage of $15.20/hour

Workers building a restaurant patio on the side of the street are pictured along Yew Street in Vancouver on April 9. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

The living wage for families in Metro Vancouver and Victoria has taken yet another jump since it was last calculated two years ago, according to a new report. 

The Living Wage for Families Campaign has found working people in Metro Vancouver would need to earn at least $20.52 an hour in order to meet the most basic costs of raising two children. In Victoria, the rate was less than 10 cents behind at $20.46.

"We've found the living wage has increased significantly higher than the rate of inflation, and that is largely driven by the huge increases in the cost of housing that families ... have experienced in recent years," said Anastasia French, operations organizer for the campaign.

The rate is calculated based on the cost of essentials like food, rent, childcare and transportation once government taxes, credits, deductions and subsidies have been taken into account.

The living wage does not include expenses like debt repayments, interest payments, entertainment, leisure and unpaid vacations. It also does not include the cost of saving for a home, retirement or sending a child to university.

Other personal costs, like caring for a sick family member, are not factored into the calculations, either — leading some to argue that earning a living wage is not the same as earning enough to realistically live comfortably.

The new rate in Metro Vancouver is an increase of roughly $1 an hour from 2019 and $6 an hour from 2010. (The campaign did not calculate a living wage for 2020 as the pandemic upended normal finances.)

The new living wage is also significantly higher than the minimum wage in B.C., which rose to $15.20 in June. French said the substantial gap means a minimum-wage worker would need to work an extra day each week or pick up a second job if they want to be able to make ends meet.

"That's a day a week they're not spending time with their family and focusing on their well-being," she said.

Steve Stromberg, who lives in Surrey, B.C., works as an operations manager with the Revive Washing pressure washing service, but earned less than the living wage at previous jobs.

"When I was earning more of a mininum wage, I definitely didn't have disposable income. I was very much paycheque to paycheque and having to borrow money from time to time to be able to get the essentials such as groceries or even gas in the vehicle to get to work." he told CBC's The Early Edition on Tuesday.

"Now, being a living wage employee ... I'm able to put my kids through childcare, extracurricular activities, sports activities — quality of life has improved at least two-fold, if not more."

LISTEN | French and Stromberg discuss the new living wage for Metro Vancouver:

Anastasia French Steve Stranberg speak with Stephen Quinn about his report that finds the living wage is now $20.52

The campaign calculated the living wage in 14 communities across the province. The report found minimum wage wasn't high enough for any of them.

Only Metro Vancouver and Victoria saw family expenses increase faster than the rate of inflation.

The province hasn't publicly announced any plans to raise the minimum wage any further, but French said advocates would "definitley welcome" any such news.

"There's still such a gap between the minimum an employer needs to pay their staff and actually what a worker needs to be able to live," said French.

Living wage rates in 2021 were as follows:

  • Columbia Valley — $17.18
  • Comox Valley — $16.44
  • Fraser Valley — $16.75
  • Golden — $19.46
  • Grand Forks — $17.21
  • Kamloops — $16.71
  • Kelowna — $18.49
  • Metro Vancouver — $20.52
  • Nanaimo — $16.33
  • Nelson — $19.56
  • Penticton — $18.55
  • Revelstoke — $19.51
  • Trail — $18.15
  • Victoria — $20.46

With files from CBC's The Early Edition

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