Minimum wage is not a living wage.

I’m lucky. I work for a great company, treated fairly, and paid more than minimum wage. I have health benefits through my job as well as Alberta Health Care. I’m in my mid 40’s now.
Fifteen years ago, I was working for Walmart. I made $8/hour, which was above the min wage in Alberta which at the time was about $6/hour. If I had not been living with friends at the time, I would not have been able to survive because they classified full time at 32 hours per week. I was in my early 30s then. In 15 years Alberta has raised the minimum wage to $10.20/hour. That’s all of about $4.00/hour.

Below I’m going to outline how $10.20 is a struggle as a single person and almost completely impossible if you are a single parent without some sort of social assistance. Married or common law childless couples where both are making minimum wage have it a little better, only because housing and utility costs are shared.

Working a 40 hour week at $10.20/hour gives a person $408/week, or approximately $1,632/month before taxes CPP and EI deductions are made.

Income tax/week at 15% tax bracket (the lowest). $61.20

CPP deductions: 16.86

EI Deductions: 7.67

After all these deductions are made, you’re looking at a weekly net pay of approximately $322.27/week or $1,289.08/month, This does not include any deductions made for employer offered health care benefits, like dental, vision or extended health care.

Out of this $1289/month, rent in Calgary is high, Kijiji is showing room (a single room!) being rented for $500. A bachelor or basement suite are being advertised at rents between $700-$900/month. Then there is utilities on top of that which can run between $30/month for electricity to $100-$150/month for shared utilities. Then you have transportation costs. It’s $99/month for a transit pass. You could have a car, but insurance will run about $100/month if you have been driving a while with no claims against you. Gas will cost about $140/month based on $1.15/litre, so it’s probable you can’t afford a car at minimum wage.
Then there’s food. It’s not a stretch to say $200/month on food for a single person, given food prices right now.
So let’s run this down. Say you’re willing to rent a single room, which may or may not have a private bathroom. That’s $500/month. You will be expected to pay a portion of the utilities, so the cost would depend on household usage and how many others are living there. Let’s say $50/month. There’s the cost of food, which may or may not be used by other people in the house at $200/month. A monthly transit pass will be another $99/month. So right how you are spending $849/month just by renting a room as a single person and living like a hermit with no social life. If you don’t have benefits, a dentist visit could cost you more than you make and even with employee benefits, there is always a portion that has to be paid. Eye checks cost between $65-$100 depending on the optometrist, and glasses cost $100 for the basic lenses without frames. Unexpected costs like this can eat into the amount left over at the end of the month. Alberta employers are not required to offer sick days, so if you are ill, you either lose a vacation day, or a day’s wage. If you are within your first year of working at a company, you may not be eligible for holiday days until you have been there a full year.

Now imagine you are a single mom with just one non school age child. You will need at least a one bedroom suite, which is hard to find under $1000/month. You do get the Baby Bonus of about $100-$200/month.  Out of  the same $1289.08/month, you will need to pay for accommodations, a single room is out, you’ll need at least a 1 bedroom basement suite, if the landlord is willing to have a small child live there, so that’s $700/month plus a portion of the utilities, so there’s another $100/month. Day care, unless you have a kindly family member to help out, will cost between $200-$500 depending on if you qualify for subsidy.

Things change slightly once a child becomes school age.  Daycare costs might go down, but then there are school fees, extra money through the year for field trips etc. Growing children require clothes too, so while as a single person you could put off buying a new pair of shoes, buying clothing that fits your child is necessary.

Looking at my numbers, which to be fair are not statistics, and have just been my own calculations, there is no way minimum wage is a living wage in today’s society. If anyone finds more accurate calculations that have different results, please post them!

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