The Ontario government just cancelled the planned minimum wage increase to $15 an hour in January, but now, at least for workers in Guelph and Wellington County, it seems like they’re failing even further behind. According to a new report by the Guelph & Wellington Task Force for Poverty Elimination, a living wage in our area is now $16.90 per hour.
The new living wage figure represents an increase from the last time the Task Force looked into what a living wage was for the area in 2015. Three years ago, a living wage for Guelph-Wellington was $16.50 an hour; two years before that in 2013, it was $15.95 an hour.
The calculation is based on a family of four, with two adults and two children, one 7 years old and the other 3. It assumes that both parents work full-time, 35 hours per week, and that all their household income goes to cover the basics, no savings, no retirement plan, no debt payments.
“A living wage is the hourly wage a worker needs to earn to cover their basic expenses and participate in their community,” is the definition that the Task Force uses.
So how does one go about calculating an average family’s expenses? Much of it comes from data gathered from government agencies, academia, and non-profits like Statistics Canada, the Ontario Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services, and the Guelph YMCA-YWCA. Expenses like shelter, groceries, childcare, transportation and non-OHIP health costs are all sourced locally.
For instance, the 2017 Nutritious Food Basket was used to price affordable, healthy eating using 60 foods that represent a nutritious diet, which comes to $744.80 per month for our average family of four.
The rent is set at $1,200 for a 3-bedroom apartment, a number gained from the 2017 Rental Market Report published by Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, which doesn’t include the secondary market.
Transportation costs fluctuate depending on where you live. In Guelph, where public transit is available, the monthly cost for transportation is $629.84. hat’s the price for one car and one monthly transit pass. In Wellington County, where there’s no public transit, the cost of transportation is nearly doubled.
Other monthly expenses include $111 for hydro, $269 for shoes and clothing, $1,365 for childcare, $181 for communications including two cell phones and the internet, and $764 for other expenses like recreation and personal care items.
In the good news category, the number of Guelph employers that pay their employees a living wage, or pay their full-time workers and/or have signaled their intention to pay all employees a living wage, has increased to 33.
The Guelph & Wellington Task Force for Poverty Elimination is continuing its push to get all Guelph employers to pay a living wage citing increased employee productivity and morale, increased employee retention, reduced absenteeism, and expanded economic activity as benefits.
Still, the minimum wage in Ontario will remain $2.90 short of a living wage thanks to new legislation introduced by the provincial government in September. Instead, minimum wage earners will get a LIFT, the Low-Income Individuals and Families Tax Credit, which will lower or eliminate income tax for an estimate 1.1 million people in Ontario. Experts note, however, that a tax credit is less effective helping to lift people out of poverty than an increase to their base wages.
You can read the full report from the Task Force by clicking here.