Living Wage in the
What does it cost to live in our region?
The living wage is defined as the hourly pay an individual must receive in order to earn enough to completely cover basic living expenses such as food, clothing, rental housing, transportation, childcare, and a small amount of savings for the event of illness or an emergency. The living wage figure varies based on the specific markets of a region, but it consistently encourages employers to pay significantly above the minimum wage to ensure the financial security of their employees and the wellbeing of their business(es).
The living wage calculation is a conservative, reasonable amount—predicated upon rentals, used vehicles, and other affordable options—intended to compensate for Canada’s stagnant wages, which have failed to rise to scale with the price of consumer products and the cost of living. Additionally, the living wage practice has been shown to be an effective business model, and as such, has already engendered significant support from communities and business across British Columbia.
Traditionally, the living wage in British Columbia is calculated for a family consisting of two adults, both aged 31-50, and two children, one aged seven, the other aged four—the most common family unit in BC. The parents each work 35 hours per week and both earn an equal hourly wage.
The living wage is a figure calculated to determine the wage required to be earned by two parents in a model family of four in order to cover the costs of shelter, transportation, food, clothing, and all other basic needs.
In 2020, The Campaign for Living Wage made the decision to freeze the previous years' living wage figures as calculated by communities throughout the province due to COVID-19; specifically due to the fact that with the uncertainty of the situation. While many lost work, permanently or temporarily due to the pandemic, most families affected were able to access a variety of financial supports from the government and other institutions. This was cited by the organizers of the campaign, noting the great difficulties facing families as well as employers through the pandemic having made it simply too difficult to use the previous calculation method to arrive at an accurate living wage figure for the year.
For this year's calculation, Social Planning Cowichan has made the decision to break from the Living Wage Campaign and release our figure independently. In analyzing some of the parameters of the calculation, it is apparent that changes to the BC Living Wage calculation does not take into account significant transportation differences between large, dense urban centers like Metro Vancouver, and smaller, spread-out or rural regions like Cowichan. While residents in larger urban centres are more often able to rely on integrated public transit systems to travel to and from work, to activities and to access services relying on only one vehicle while in regions without robust transportation systems, most families require two vehicles to meet their transportation needs. As such, based on lengthy discussions, it was decided that in order to reflect the more common reality of families within our region, we replaced the cost of 1 monthly bus pass and one vehicle with the cost of 2 vehicles (as we have done in years past). We will continue to work with Living Wage BC and other communities facing the same transportation challenges as ours to address this ongoing calculation deficiency.
UPDATE: The BC Living Wage for Families Campaign has agreed to accept our calculation altered to suit the Cowichan region, resulting in a Living Wage of $19.13. Local businesses are now able to become certified Living Wage employers directly through the provincial campaign. Visit the Living Wage for Families BC website for more information on how to become certified!