Coming off a municipal election that was, in many way, about affordability, comes a reminder of the stakes when it comes to what “affordability” really means. At the start of Living Wage Week 2022, the Ontario Living Wage Network has announced, perhaps unsurprisingly, that the living wage in Ontario has gone up once again. In Guelph and Wellington, that number is now $19.95, one of the largest in the province.
According to the OLWN, the living wage is calculated by how much a worker must earn per hour in order to make ends meet and enjoy modest participation in civic and cultural community. The calculations gather expenses for three types of households: two adults supporting two small children, a single parent, and a single adult.
“This year’s living wage calculations emerge from a backdrop of record–breaking inflation and Consumer Price Index increases, and workers at the bottom end of the wage scale are most vulnerable to these kinds of fluctuations,” said the 2022 report.
“Record-breaking” is one way of looking at things here in Guelph where the living wage is now nearly $20, a 10.2 per cent increase from last year when the living wage was pegged at $18.10. The Guelph/Wellington area has the third highest living wage in Ontario and is tied with Waterloo Region where the living wage jumped from $17.20 to $19.95, a 16 per cent increase.
The living wage is now $20.70 per hour in Simcoe County, Perth and Huron counties, and Grey and Bruce counties, while all areas of the GTA including Toronto, Peel and Halton Regions now have a $23.15 living wage, a nearly 17 per cent increase in Peel Region alone.
The biggest driver for the increase in the living wage seems to be – and this may be obvious – shelter. For a family of four, the cost of shelter in Guelph and Wellington is, on average, $23,965. For a single parent, the shelter cost is $17,009 and for a single adult it’s $14896. The report notes that a two-bedroom apartment is between 75 and 95 per cent of the cost of a three-bedroom apartment, which puts even more pressure on affordability since there’s virtually no difference between two different units.
Guelph-Wellington also has the third most expensive accommodations of all the regions examined by the Living Wage Network behind the GTA and Ottawa.
The current minimum wage in Ontario was recently raised to $15.50 per hour. The last time that the living wage in Guelph was anywhere close to that number was in 2013 when the living wage was set at $15.95. It was then increased to $16.90 in 2018. So with all these considerations, the Ontario Living Wage Network has said that the most essential way to address the affordability crisis is to make the living wage, the minimum wage.
“Paying a living wage must be an integral part of responding to the affordability crisis that workers are facing across Ontario,” said Craig Pickthorne, Communications Co-ordinator with the OLWN. “There are over 500 living wage certified employers who recognize that their employees are integral to the success of their organization. Paying poverty wages is corrosive not only to the individual worker and their families, but to workplace health and productivity as well.”
There are presently 35 certified Living Wage employers in Guelph including Service Master ReStore, Guelph Solar, Grey Rock Clothing, Park Eatery, Evolve Builders and the Co-operators.