The living wage is a locally calculated, hourly wage that reflects the cost for employees to meet their basic needs. The calculation is provided by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (Ontario Office). It is not the same as the provincially mandated minimum wage, which is currently set at $11.40 an hour. This rate of pay is not enough to support individuals and families in making ends meet.
The living wage, on the other hand, reflects how much it costs to live decently in specific regions. The living wage is voluntary; therefore, employers choose to pay a living wage.
There are many benefits for employees in paying a living wage. The living wage is fair compensation for working. It can raise workers out of poverty by paying enough to meet their basic needs. The living wage promotes social inclusion – the calculation takes into account activities that the average family would be able to participate in (for example, recreation and monthly restaurant dinner). Additionally, the living wage promotes better health in many ways – one clear example is decreased stress from being able to live without constantly worrying about making ends meet. The calculation also allows for one parent to obtain postsecondary education on a part-time basis, allowing the opportunity of further education.
The living wage also provides numerous benefits to employers. Due to reduced turnover, employers will have lower training costs. In addition to reduced turnover, there are likely to be reduced absences as well. As employees are being paid enough to live, the result is higher morale, loyalty and performance. Being publicly recognized as an employer who pays a living wage can be advantageous in terms of business – this can attract customers who are interested in supporting ethical businesses.
The greater spending power earned by those who are paid a living wage will be beneficial to the economy. The employees making living wage will have more money to put back into the economy. Families and individuals will also have a greater ability to participate in society when paid a living wage which can strengthen community. Lastly, living wage is a poverty reduction strategy that targets those who are working but still living in poverty.
For more information, please contact:
Bonnie Krysowaty, Social Researcher/Planner