North

High housing, food costs drive up Whitehorse's living wage: report

The cost of living in Whitehorse is inching up, and with it, the amount a family has to make in order to afford to live there. The Yukon Anti Poverty Coalition has released its 2018 Living Wage Report.

The Yukon Anti Poverty Coalition says the living wage in Whitehorse is $18.57 an hour

Downtown Whitehorse, April 2018. (Jackie McKay/CBC)

The cost of living in Whitehorse is inching up, and with it, the amount a family has to make in order to afford to live there. 

The Yukon Anti Poverty Coalition has released its 2018 Living Wage Report.

It says the average family of four, consisting of two adults and two children, must make $18.57 an hour, after government transfers and wage deductions, in order to meet basic needs including food, shelter, clothing, healthcare, and transportation. 

The report says people in households that make less than the living wage face difficult financial choices and often forgo basic needs due to a lack of money. 

Report says raise minimum wage to $15

"The main drivers of that [living wage] are high housing costs, high food costs and high child care costs," said Kendall Hammond, a public policy researcher who authored the report.

He says the Yukon Childcare subsidy and the Northern Living Allowance help offset the living wage calculation. 

The Yukon Anti Poverty Coalition released its third annual living wage report. (Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition)

This year's living wage represents just a $0.31 increase over last year's living wage, but a $7.06 disparity between the minimum wage, which is currently $11.51 in the Yukon. 

But Hammond says they're not suggesting the minimum wage increase to match the living wage. 

"That's kind of a sledgehammer approach."

Hammond suggests that while the territory conducts a review of the minimum wage, it should raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. 

He points to additional ways to improve affordability. 

"In particular we're looking at better public transit service and subsidized bus passes for low and modest income households, increases to the Yukon Child Benefit for households with children, and investments in social and affordable housing." 

Hammond says carbon tax rebates could also be used to benefit lower income households and those living outside of Whitehorse who face high transportation costs. 

The living wage is calculated with a standardized formula used across the country. 

Hammond says Whitehorse has one of the highest living wage rates in the country, but it's surpassed by Yellowknife and Vancouver, which both have living wage rates greater than $20 an hour. 

With files from Tara McCarthy

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