Living Wage in Nelson

If you were forced to live in poverty, how well could you stretch your dollar? Would you be able to make it to the end of the month with money to spare? These are the questions United Way is posing to people all across Canada.

The United Way’s Make the Month campaign launched this week in Edmonton. It challenges Canadians to put themselves in the shoes of those living in poverty.

One in 10 Canadians lives in poverty, with each city posing different challenges. In the Capital Region alone, there are about 120,000 people – 40,000 children – who live in poverty. So, could you do it?

The United Way has set up an online tool that simulates the limited budget many Canadians struggle with to meet life’s basic needs for one month.

The test first asks Canadians to select the city nearest to them. Then they’re asked to simulate the life of a single person, a single-parent family or a two-parent family.

Once you choose, you’re given an amount of money to start out the month. The lump sum for a single person living in Edmonton, for example, is $1,170. A two-parent family in Edmonton starts the month with $2,229.

Wages at the low end of the economic spectrum are below Statistic’s Canada’s low income cut-offs.

The Nelson market basket calculation indicates that more people face economic barriers to a healthy, engaged life than Statistic’s Canada’s low income measures indicate.  Nelson’s market basket also suggests that the depth of poverty experienced by low income workers is greater than current low income measures suggest.  In Nelson, about 25% of jobs are in low-paying sectors paying an average of $12 per hour.

While the introduction of a living wage could significantly ameliorate the problem of working poverty, there is justified concern amongst small business that paying a living wage will make it uneconomical to continue business operations.  Government cites these risks to small business and the related threat of job losses as reasons not to increase the minimum wage.  However, 90% of minimum wage earners in Canada are employed by large, high profit-generating multi-national corporations. Thus, rather than dismissing the living wage concept as impossible to achieve, the provincial government could instead introduce a living wage and support small business through the transition to it.  Taking an approach that includes protections for small business could remove a barrier to small business participation in the living wage conversation and might lead to greater small business support of the concept.