Minimum wage 'far too low' to support a family in Charlottetown: study

The minimum wage on P.E.I. would come up well short of providing a family in Charlottetown with a living wage, a report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives concludes.

Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives calls for P.E.I. minimum wage of $15 an hour

The study calculated the cost of a variety of family expenses and found a living wage in Charlottetown to be $19.30 an hour. (Kevin Yarr/CBC)

The minimum wage on P.E.I. would come up well short of providing a family in Charlottetown with a living wage, a report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives concludes.

The study, released Monday, estimated that a family of four would need two parents each earning $19.30 an hour for a decent quality of life. The current minimum wage on P.E.I. is $12.85. That's the highest in the region, but still more than $6 short of what the centre's report found was needed.

"The minimum wage is far too low," said study author Christine Saulnier.

"People are absolutely struggling. The other side of that is they're having to take multiple jobs. The living wage is also about quality of life. We really want people to not have to work multiple jobs, stressing about where their next job might come. That they actually have some stability."

The minimum wage should be up to $15 an hour by now, said Saulnier.

Shelter biggest cost

The study looked at the actual costs of living in Charlottetown for a family of four that included a seven-year-old and a two-year-old.

The biggest cost was for shelter — in the scenario analyzed, a three-bedroom apartment.

People making a living wage are healthier, says study author Christine Saulnier. (CBC)

The budget also included a second-hand car and a monthly bus pass, full-time childcare for the toddler and an after-school program for the seven-year-old.

There was money for one of the parents to study part-time.

There was also a social inclusion budget, which included money for school supplies, sports fees, art or music lessons, gifts, as well as the occasional restaurant meal or day trip.

The study found the living wage was similar to those that would be required in Saint John and Antigonish, both $19.55 an hour. Shelter and food tended to be more expensive in Charlottetown, but childcare was less expensive.

Benefits to employers

The study is aimed both at government policy makers and at employers, said Saulnier.

Studies connected to the concept of a living wage have shown employers can benefit from raising wages. Higher wages make employees less stressed, healthier, and better able to do good work for their employers.

"The data from our living wage movement shows that those employers that have increased their wages to this level, they reap benefits," said Saulnier.

"Their employees remain with them longer, they see less turnover."

The health care system ends up paying for the stress that low wages cause, Saulnier added.

More from CBC P.E.I.

With files from Island Morning


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