Vibrant Abbotsford sets ‘living wage’ at $16.42 per hour for family of four

A family of four in Abbotsford cannot survive on minimum wage, according to Vibrant Abbotsford, a group of community partners working together to reduce poverty.

  • May. 30, 2011 6:00 p.m.

A family of four in Abbotsford cannot survive on minimum wage, according to Vibrant Abbotsford, a group of community partners working together to reduce poverty.

The organization recently released figures, in accordance with the Centre for Poverty Reduction, identifying Abbotsford’s living wage at $16.42 per hour.

The minimum wage currently sits at $8.75, raised from $8 on May 1. By May 2010 it will be increased to $10.25.

A living wage is the amount needed for a family to obtain basic needs, create a safe environment and a decent standard of living.

The number is based on the expenses of a family of four, with both parents working full-time.

It affords everyday expenses – including housing, food, clothing, utility bills and childcare.

But it doesn’t cover the costs of owning a home, saving for retirement or for a child’s future education. Nor does it cover credit cards, debts, loans or holidays.

“It’s a bare-bones budget,” said Cheryl McKeever, co-ordinator of Vibrant Abbotsford.

“We’re trying to get the fact out that there’s a large difference between living wage and minimum wage … Basically, living wage allows Abbotsford residents to obtain basic needs and minimum wage doesn’t do the same.”

The living wage has been adopted in B.C. by New Westminster and Esquimalt. It’s paid to municipal workers and those who contract to the city.

Vibrant Abbotsford hopes to present the findings to Abbotsford city council, highlighting its positive spin-offs, which include reduced health care costs and lower crime rates.

“There’s a huge win to the local economy,” said McKeever. “Most people who work for living wage will spend the money locally because they don’t go off on holidays.”

Employers experience higher productivity, lower absenteeism and decreased turnover. Employees receive access to benefits, experience less stress and have a reduced reliance on social programs.

The majority of those working on minimum wage depend on socials program, from recreation passes to the food bank, said McKeever.

“The minimum wage doesn’t come close to what it costs to live in Abbotsford,” she said.

So far, the numbers have drawn positive feedback in the community, with some organizations considering adopting the wage.

McKeever hopes the report will continue to generate discussion.

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The average Abbotsford family includes two parents, with four- and seven-year-olds, according to Vibrant Abbotsford. Their monthly budget, in 10 categories:

1. Food – $735.

2. Clothing and footwear – $187.

3. Shelter – $1,021, based on renting a three-bedroom apartment, including utilities, home and content insurance, and telephone.

4. Transportation, bus only – $388.

5. Childcare – $1,135, based on the four-year-old in full-time care, and the seven-year-old in after-school care. It also includes six weeks of summer care.

6. Medical Services Plan (MSP) – $114.

7. Non-MSP health care – $133.

8. Parent education – $112, allowing the parents two college courses a year for job upgrades.

9. Contingency fund – $192, for unexpected events, such as job transitions or the illness of a family member.

10. Other – $674, covering personal care for house and school supplies, reading materials, and minimal recreation and entertainment.

The budget does not cover credit cards, loans, debt, interest, saving for childhood education or owning a home.