2021 Living Wages for Nova Scotia reflect cost of living and lack of government support

Governments can do much more to support workers
November 3, 2021

Halifax, NS—The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives-Nova Scotia released Living Wages in Nova Scotia 2021: Working for a Living, Not Living to Work. This report provides the 2021 Living Wages for Nova Scotia, which cover the entire province for the first time. The living wage report uses community expenses to calculate the wage to reflect the rate of pay needed to meet everyone’s basic needs given the costs, available government supports and services, and norms of a specific region.

The regional living wage rates released today are as follows: 

  • $21.30: Annapolis valley (Annapolis, Kings, and Hants counties) 

  • $18.45: Cape Breton (Cape Breton, Inverness, Richmond and Victoria Counties) 

  • $22.05: Halifax (Halifax County)

  • $19.20: Northern (Antigonish, Colchester, Cumberland, Guysborough, and Pictou counties)

  • $21.03: Southern (Digby, Lunenburg, Queens, Shelburne, and Yarmouth counties)

“Comparing the Halifax and Cape Breton living wage rates to 2020 shows an increase to both. The wage rates are not surprising given that most items in the living wage budget have increased in cost, and there have been no significant improvements to income transfers, public services or to tax credits that help offset increases to the cost of living,” says Christine Saulnier, author of the report and Director of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternative-Nova Scotia. 

“We calculate the living wage as a call for employers to pay a wage rate that reflects the cost of living,” says Saulnier. 

“Governments can also do much more to support workers as they struggle to make ends meet. With the rising cost of living, it is urgent that both the income and costs side of the equation be addressed. As the living wage calculations show, while it is important for employers to pay decent wages, we also need to decrease costs, many of which are best addressed at a societal level through social programs and public services,” adds Saulnier.

The top three most expensive items in the budgets for all regions are shelter, food and child care, which combined make up just over 60% of regional budgets. 

Catherine Leviten-Reid, housing expert at Cape Breton University and Research Associate with the CCPA-NS says this: “I am not surprised that the number one expense in the living wage budget is shelter costs. The Cape Breton rental rate went up 10% year over year, which is much higher than the 5% provincial shelter increase in October 2020 compared to October 2019. Part of the issue is that there is not a diversity of rentals in the market and in this case for families.  Most of our rental housing is provided through the marketplace instead of through nonmarket providers, and this needs to be addressed."

“I do also want to raise awareness about the lack of data around rental information in my community, but also across the province. As we plan to address the housing crisis, understanding what is happening locally, by collecting local data and involving housing advocates, will be critical,” adds Leviten-Reid, 


For more information or to arrange an interview with the author, contact Lauren Matheson, 902-579-9555 (cell) or [email protected]

The report is available on the CCPA-NS website https://www.policyalternatives.ca/offices/nova-scotia/publications

The CCPA-NS is an independent, non-partisan research institute concerned with issues of social and economic justice, as well as environmental sustainability.