2012 living wage calculation shows the real costs of raising a family in Metro Vancouver

April 26, 2012

From the Living Wage for Families Campaign

(Vancouver) For families with young children, the costs of basic necessities like food, rent and child care quickly add up. Even with full-time work year round, both parents in a family of four must earn at least $19.14 to escape severe financial stress in Metro Vancouver.

This is the Metro Vancouver living wage rate for 2012, according to a new report released by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA), First Call: BC Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition, and the Metro Vancouver Living Wage for Families Campaign. This is the third annual update of the original Metro Vancouver living wage calculation published in 2008.

The living wage is calculated as the hourly rate at which a family with two full-time earners and two young children can meet its basic needs, once government taxes, credits, deductions and subsidies have been taken into account.

“The living wage should not be confused with the minimum wage, which is the legislated minimum set by the provincial government,” explains report co-author Iglika Ivanova of the CCPA. “The living wage calls on employers to pay wages that reflect the actual costs of living in their communities and that are high enough to provide a basic level of economic security to families with children. Families working full-time deserve to earn a living that’s more than a constant struggle to get by. By paying the living wage to both their direct staff and their service contractors, employers enable more families to escape chronic financial stress and will help reduce the disturbingly high level of child poverty in BC.”

Despite the recent increase in the minimum wage, it is estimated that at least 25% of families with children in Metro Vancouver still earn less than a living wage.

The 2012 living wage sees a notable 33-cent increase over the 2011 Metro Vancouver living wage of $18.81/hour.

The jump is driven by big increases in shelter costs and child care fees, already the most expensive items of the family budget. Shelter costs rose by $76/month (or close to 6%), driven by soaring rents in Vancouver (up by $68/month) and modest increases in the cost of utilities and telephone. Child care fees took a big jump of $33/month,a 3 per cent increase. BC government provides child care subsidies for low-income parents, but rates have not increased since 2005. Finally, MSP premiums increased by 6 per cent a year over the last three years (and are slated to increase again in 2013).

However not all items on the budget rose, most notably transportation costs fell by $28/month (despite increases in car costs) due to the introduction of the universal U-Pass for students in all publicly funded post-secondary institutions in BC as of September 2010. This illustrates the important role of public programs in enhancing affordability. When public services are made more affordable, the living wage rate is moderated, easing the role of employers in ensuring that families can meet their core budgetary needs.

“For eight years running, BC has had the highest level of child poverty in the country, and more than half of poor children in BC have at least one parent working full-time, full-year,” says Michael McCarthy Flynn Campaign Organizer with the Living Wage for Families Campaign. “This affects all of us: it takes an enormous toll on these families and their children, and it hurts the local economy.”

Many cities around the province are starting to get serious about this issue, following the lead of the city of New Westminster in exploring passing a living Wage Policy. In fact just this week School District 69 in (Parksville/Qualicum) became the first School District to pass a Living Wage Policy.

In Metro Vancouver, a growing number of leading corporate and non-profit employers are committing to pay all their direct staff and contracted service staff, including janitorial, security and cleaning staff, a living wage.

Twenty six organizations Metro Vancouver, employing over 5000 workers and covering many thousand more contracted service workers, have been certified as Living Wage Employers. These include SAP-Vancouver, Vancity, The Canadian Cancer Society – BC and Yukon Division, the United Way of the Lower Mainland and the Small Business BC’s ‘Best Employer in 2012’, Eclipse Awards.

Download Working for a Living Wage 2012: Making Paid Work Meet Basic Family Needs in Metro Vancouver at www.policyalternatives.ca/livingwage2012


To arrange interviews, contact Michael McCarthy Flynn, Living Wage for Families Campaign Organizer at 604-873-8437 or Iglika Ivanova, Economist and Public Interest Researcher, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and co-author of the report at 604-801-5121 ex. 232.