- Living Wage Employers pay all direct and contract staff the living wage rate for their region.
- Living Wage Employers recognize that paying a living wage is an investment in the long-term prosperity of the economy.
- We all have a role to play in ending poverty. The minimum wage is a government response to address working poverty. The living wage is an employer’s opportunity to address the same problem.
Paying a living wage
The living wage is a bare-bones calculation that looks at the amount that a family of four needs to earn to meet their expenses. The living wage includes costs like rent and groceries as well as items like extended health care and two weeks savings for each adult. It does not include debt repayment or savings for future plans.
To calculate the living wage rate, employers take into account their employees’ total wage plus benefits. If employees receive non-mandatory benefits, the living wage rate is reduced. See our benefits calculator for details.
Read through A guide to becoming a Living Wage Employer. The handbook offers step-by-step information for large and small employers.
What are the benefits of a living wage?
Good for employers
Employers have found that implementing a living wage has increased their employee recruitment and retention. Vancity saw that the most significant impact was the swelling of pride in all staff after implementing a living wage. Staff at Living Wage Employers are proud to contribute to a company that ensures that no one is left behind.
"A living wage supports our organization's mission to promote equality, fairness and social inclusion." - BC Public Interest Advocacy Centre
Good for our community
We all pay for poverty in our communities. We pay in increased use of emergency health services when individuals aren’t able to afford to fill prescriptions. Our education system is stretched when parents aren’t able to support their children’s education because they are working multiple jobs. Investing in a living wage is investing in the health of our communities.
Good for the economy
When low-wage workers see an increase in their wages they spend their money locally. A living wage allows families to participate in the social, civic and cultural lives of their communities. They support local business and participate in community events. We all benefit when we reduce poverty in our communities.
It can be confusing to figure out what the poverty line is in BC because Canada has no official definition of poverty. There are three main measures of poverty in Canada but the most common measure is the Low Income Measure (LIM). LIM is a fixed percentage (50%) of median adjusted household income, where "adjusted" refers to the household size or the number of members in a household.
Chart: 2017 Child Poverty Report Card, First Call: BC Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition
Getting above the poverty line still does not leave families with economic security. For example, the median rent for a three bedroom apartment in Metro Vancouver for 2014 would eat up 44% of the annual income of a two-parent, two-child family earning $36,426 (2015 LIM).
The method we use to calculate the living wage sets a higher standard. The living wage is a reflection of expenses that family faces in their region.
Poor families face impossible choices: buy food or heat the house, fill a prescription or pay the rent. But child poverty is not just an issue for low-wage families and their children.
When it comes to the increase in child-poverty rates in BC, including the weakening of local economics and the increased costs for public services, we all pay a price, through:
Increased health care costs
Low-income families are not only more vulnerable to poor health than those earning a living wage, they use more health-care resources because illness can make it harder to get out of poverty. Poverty can lead to sickness because of inadequate housing, poor nutrition, and less access to preventative health care. In fact, poverty costs British Columbians $1.2 to $3.8 billion a year in increased health costs, according to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and BC Healthy Living Alliance.
Increased demands and pressures on our education system
Studies show that children who arrive hungry to school, or whose parents work two to three jobs to make ends meet, struggle academically. Also, teenagers in low-income families are at increased risk of quitting school before graduating Grade 12 – often to supplement their family’s income. As unqualified workers, these teens (and their future families) are also likely to continue living in poverty, and their increasing numbers pose serious implications for the province’s global economic competitiveness and fiscal sustainability.
Lost tax revenue and reduced economic activity
It is well established that lower-income households spend more of their money locally than those in higher-income brackets. And when workers buy goods and services in their local communities, it benefits neighbourhood businesses, many of which are small businesses. (This fact sheet provides details on the ever-increasing role the low-wage sector is playing in BC’s economy.)