New Brunswick

Province pledges minimum wage review as workers face challenge

Many New Brunswickers working full-time for minimum wage are likely having a difficult time making ends meet when taking into account the basic cost of living, according to a CBC News review.

CBC News review shows the challenges of living on $10.65 an hour in Fredericton, Moncton and Saint John

The New Brunswick government is asking citizens whether minimum wage should be indexed to inflation. (Elaine Thompson/Associated Press)

Many New Brunswickers working full-time for minimum wage are likely having a difficult time making ends meet when taking into account the basic cost of living, according to a CBC News review.

The provincial government announced last week it was moving forward with a public consultation process that would ask citizens about the minimum wage and employment standards.

Minimum wage is $10.65 and the provincial government will be raising it to $11 by 2017.

That will be good news for many people who are currently earning minimum wage.

Stephen Comeau works at the Saint John Ale House and makes a little over minimum wage, roughly $11 per hour.

Even at that, Comeau said paying the bills can be difficult.

"I have enough to get by," he said.

"But it's just … I don't have any extra money to be tossing around too much, you know what I mean?"

In fact, he is moving in with his parents to be able to save a little more so he can go back to school.

New Brunswickers earning $10.65 will have a hard time making ends meet, especially if they live in Fredericton. (Karin Larsen/CBC)
"Obviously, I don't want to be just having an average job for the rest of my life," he said.

But Comeau is one of the lucky ones: he is young and single, without any dependents or many expenses.

CBC compared the Human Development Council's Market Basket Measure, a measure of the bare minimum needed to get by, with what someone working full time on minimum wage would make after taxes.

The numbers are sobering.

A single person, such as Comeau, would need to earn roughly $1,500 more just to make ends meet in Saint John.

Single adults on minimum wage
Yearly Income Market Basket Measure Difference
Fredericton $16,572

$19,224

-$2,652
Moncton

$16,572

$18,059 -$1,487
Saint John

$16,572

$18,041 -$1,469

Single parents fare worse

Making ends meet is even harder for people with children.

In fact, for a single parent with three children, minimum wage provides less than half the money needed for basic survival.

Minimum wage earners will make $16,572 per year after taxes, but in order to care for their children in Saint John, they need roughly $36,000. 

This is only minimum wage income, however, and doesn't include any government assistance for low income individuals with children.

In Moncton, the situation is roughly the same, but in Fredericton, the number is slightly higher: they need roughly $36,000 to care for children.

Single parent with three children on minimum wage
Yearly Income Market Basket Measure Difference
Fredericton

$16,572

$38,447

-$21,875

Moncton $16,572

$36,118

-$19,546
Saint John $16,572

$36,081

-$19,509

Dual incomes offer more disposable funds

The only situation where minimum wage lifts people above the Market Basket Measure is if two people both work and they either have one child or do not have any children.

If they are both making minimum wage, living in any of the three major cities, and have no children, they will make roughly $8,000 per year more than they need to survive.

If they have one child, they will make around $2,500 more than you need.

These numbers are similar whether people live in a rural or urban area, but it is slightly more expensive to live in Fredericton than it is in Saint John or Moncton.


Note on the methodology:

CBC News multiplied minimum hourly wage by an average 35 hours per week, 52 weeks per year, subtracting federal and provincial tax and EI benefits.

The Market Basket Measure (MBM) from 2010 was used to estimate living cost and then adjusted according to inflation for 2016.

No government assistance or benefits were taken into account. No childcare costs, health insurance or emergency spending were added.

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