Editorial: Living wage leaves little room to spare

The latest calculations for the living wage in the Comox Valley puts it at $16.59 per hour. Define living.

Calculated by the Living Wage for Families Campaign, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives’ BC office, and the First Call: BC Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition, the model considered a family with both parents working and two children. At that wage, after shelter, clothing, food, transportation and medical expenses, there might be enough left over for a coffee, maybe two, depending on where you like to get your caffeine fix. But what about when your car breaks down, when your hydro costs soar, when ICBC decides to increase your rates, when avocados jump from 79 cents apiece to $2.49? And if one of the bread winners happens to become ill, all bets are off.

Considering the service industry is the main economic driver of this community, a large demographic in the Comox Valley is what is now called the “working poor.” Along with buzzwords like “affordable” and “living wage,” it’s a relative term. It seems impossible that some group calculator somewhere can hit the equal button and accurately represent the struggles of full-time working people in 2018.

There is a reason our food banks and other social support services around the region are finding themselves busier every year.

Calculating a living wage is tricky business. It can be leveraged as a benchmark for employers to offer fair compensation, but does it indicate a fair quality of life? Announcing that the living wage in the Comox Valley is now $16.59 per hour should come with a warning that says: “As long as nothing goes awry.”

And with the minimum wage set to hit $12.65 on June 1 and not reach $15 until 2021, there’s no end in sight for many.

–Adapted from a Goldstream News Gazette editorial

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