Living wage in Metro Vancouver more than double province’s minimum wage: report

Downtown Vancouver is pictured in 2009. Consumer prices in Canada rose 2.6 percent in the 12 months to February, led by hikes in energy and food costs, the government said. (AFP Photo/Erica Berenstein)

Parents with two young children need to earn $20.68 an hour, working full-time, in order to make ends meet in Metro Vancouver, says a new report.

That’s more than double British Columbia’s $10.25 minimum wage.

“The goal is, if you work hard, if you work full-time, you should be able to have a life and you should not be scrambling to make ends meet and wondering how you’re going to put food on the table,” says Iglika Ivanova, a senior economist and co-author of the report for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

A two-parent family with a four-year-old and a seven-year old child together need to earn $75,276 a year to pay for life’s basics, she tells Yahoo Canada News.

That includes $1,573 a month for renting a three-bedroom apartment, utilities, telephone and contents insurance.

The second-largest expense is child care, at $1,324 a month for a four-year-old in full-time care and a seven-year-old in care before and after school.

The family pays $517 monthly for transportation, including the amortized costs of a used car and a two-zone bus pass for one parent.

Medical Service Plan premiums cost $144 a month and a basic extended health care plan to cover non-insured health costs, an additional $139 a month.

They would spend $783 for food, based on the provincial Health Services Authority estimates for a nutritious diet and $191 for clothing and shoes.

A living wage includes $91 a month for education – enough for two courses a year for the parents – as well as $241 monthly for a contingency fund equal to two weeks’ of wages for each parent.

Another $734 covers household supplies and toiletries, laundry, school supplies and fees, some minimal recreation, a modest annual vacation and sports activities for the kids.

The living wage doesn’t include credit card and loan payments, or savings for retirement, an education fund for the children or a down payment on a home.

“To many people, $20.68 sounds like a large number but when you look at the annual income of $37,600 [each], it’s not that much,” Ivanova says.

More than half of families in Metro Vancouver do earn a living wage, Ivanova says, but 41 per cent do not.

The report points out that B.C. has had the highest child poverty rate in Canada for eight of the past 10 years. The most recent statistics available show that one out of every three children living in poverty were part of families where at least one adult was working full-time, it says.

A $10-a-day child care plan would reduce the Metro Vancouver living wage to $16.57 an hour, Ivanova says.

“And a cross-Canada affordable child care system would cost about the same as what the federal government is planning to spend on income-splitting and the Universal Child Care Benefit, policies which offer little benefit to low- and middle-income families and create no new child care spaces,” she says.

Driven by higher costs for rent and child care, the Metro Vancouver living wage jumped $75 since last year. In 2008, the first year of the annual report, it was $16.74.

The living wage for Greater Victoria this year is 20.05 and in the Fraser Valley, east of Vancouver, it is $17.27.

In Toronto, the living wage released earlier this month is $18.52 an hour.

“We want people who work to not have to go to the food bank and not have to go to the church to get free clothing,” Ivanova says. “We want them to be able to buy their own food and clothing, because that’s what working full time is supposed to be.”