Living wage in Windsor-Essex pegged at more than $15 an hour: health unit

The Windsor Essex County Health Unit has pegged this year's living wage increase at $14 an hour for employers that provide family benefits, and $15.15 for those that do.

This year's $15.15 living wage is 34 cents higher than last year's

Health officials say the living wage is based on a household with two working parents and two kids. (Paula Duhatschek/CBC News)

The living wage in Windsor-Essex is up to $15.15 an hour this year from $14.81 in 2018, according to the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit (WECHU).

That's more than a dollar over the province's minimum wage, which was frozen at $14 an hour in the fall of 2018. 

For employers that provide family health benefits, the living wage is $14.00 an hour, on par with the province's minimum wage, the WECHU says.

The living wage is based on the cost of goods and services in Windsor-Essex, and considers what a household of two parents working full-time would need to earn to support two young children, according to information provided by WECHU.

The 34-cent bump is explained in part by the fact that the health unit has begun calculating the living wage based on a 35-hour workweek rather than a 37.5-hour workweek, based on Statistics Canada data that shows the 35-hour workweek is more common in Ontario.

Transportation, food expenses considered

Neil MacKenzie, manager of chronic disease and injury prevention for WECHU, said this year's data also better reflects the cost of transportation in Windsor and Essex County. 

"In the city you can get away with a car and bus pass, whereas in the county you may need two cars," said MacKenzie.

Healthy food, shelter, transportation and private health insurance are among the expenses considered in the calculation. Windsor's calculation uses an annual rent cost of $12,720 and annual transportation costs of $10,240.

Debt, pets not considered

But MacKenzie says there are a number of items left out.

"I think it's really important that that wage doesn't account for a lot of things, it doesn't consider home ownership or saving for education, children's education or retirement," he said. "So 15.15 an hour is a basic living wage. "

The living wage calculation does not include debt or student loan repayments, disability costs, cable television or pet ownership costs.

Recruiting employers

So far, 19 employers are officially certified with WECHU as living wage employers, and MacKenzie said he's on a mission to recruit as many as possible by the end of the year.

"Employee morale, employee recruitment, employee retention, to be identified as an employer of choice in the community... And the fact that it's the right thing to do," are some of the reasons previous employers have signed up, MacKenzie said. 

Employers who are already paying a living wage and want to be certified or who are interested in becoming a living wage employer can contact the health unit for information, MacKenzie said.


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