A local group says a Fraser Valley family of four needs both parents to be working full-time and each earning a minimum hourly wage of $16.37 in order to obtain basic needs and escape “severe financial stress.”
Living Wage Fraser Valley (LWFV), hosted by Vibrant Abbotsford, has calculated the “living wage” for the area from Aldergrove to Hope/Boston Bar. The figure was released today (Thursday).
A living wage is calculated based on a budget for a healthy family of four with two children aged four and seven, and each parent working 35 hours a week for 52 weeks a year.
It takes into account basic expenses such as food, housing, childcare, clothing and transportation once government taxes, credits, deductions and subsidies have been factored in.
The living wage does not consider home ownership, debt, holidays, saving for retirement or a child’s education, or caring for a disabled, ill or elderly family member.
LWFV coordinator Allison Homer admits that the budget is “bare-bones.” She said it brings attention to the plight of many families who are trying to survive on less than that, such as minimum wage, which starts at $10.25 in B.C.
She said 43 per cent of children living in poverty come from families where at least one adult has a full-time job.
“And a lot of families are just one paycheque away from living in poverty,” Homer added.
She said employees who earn a living wage tend to stay longer at their jobs – saving hiring and training costs for their employers – and experience less stress and illness, reducing absenteeism from work.
Homer said many employers might be scared off by the $16.37 figure, but, if they are paying benefits, that is factored in.
Ross Siemens, owner of Hub Motors in Abbotsford, is a big supporter of a living wage, particularly for local businesses like his that pride themselves on quality work and customer service.
“I think most small businesses I know of … are paying a living wage already. We see the value of keeping long-term employees,” he said.
Siemens said that paying a living wage isn’t appropriate for every sector – such as fast food restaurants with high student turn-over – but it can help retain good employees, which encourages people to return to those businesses, benefiting the local economy.
But Allan Asaph, executive director of the Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce, said many small busineses cannot afford to pay that kind of wage.
“Those businesses operate on a very tight profit margin. The wages they are able to pay are a direct reflection of the profitability of the business.”
Asaph said the consumer could be affected, with businesses having to raise the cost of their products and services in order to pay a higher remuneration to their employees.
LWFV is part of the Living Wage for Families’ Employer Recognition Process, which certifies employers who are paying a living wage.
The organization meets regularly to discuss ways of increasing community awareness, influencing local policy and recognizing employers.
For more information, visit vibrantabbotsford.ca.
Monthly living wage budget for a family of four in the Fraser Valley
Total monthly expenses of $4,715.40 are broken down as follows:
• $1,097.50 for childcare
• $1,035.03 for shelter
• $725.82 for food
• $674.44 for other household expenses (personal care, furniture, school supplies and minimal recreation)
• $426.26 for transportation
• $190.98 for two weeks’ pay (to cover emergency sickness)
• $183.12 for clothing and footwear
• $133 for private medical insurance premiums
• $128 for government medical services plan
• $121.25 for parent education (two local college courses per year)