Living wage in Cowichan pegged at $17.55 per hour

The minimum wage has a long way to climb before people can actually afford to live on it in the Cowichan Valley according to a calculation by Social Planning Cowichan.

In British Columbia the current minimum wage is $10.25, or just $9 an hour for liquor servers, who are expected to top that up with tips.

What it actually takes to put a roof over your head, food on the table, clothes on your back and pay all the bills in the Cowichan Valley is actually $17.55 per hour, according to Social Planning Cowichan’s calculation for 2015. And the cost of living is on the increase, Kathleen Sheppard of SPC said. The living wage for the area went up more than 50 cents per hour since just last year.

"The main reason we calculate the living wage is to give the community a sense of what it takes in order to be a family with certain costs and how much income is required to meet those costs," said Sheppard.

The wage is calculated using a four-person family with two adults and two children, a seven-year-old in afterschool care and a four-year-old in child care.

The family rents a three bedroom apartment and has two cars.

Just two big items take almost 40 per cent of the model family’s money: childcare and housing.

"Overall everyone’s perhaps a little surprised that the amount is so much higher than we typically think of the minimum wage and those kind of numbers," said Sheppard. Having a minimum wage that is so much less than an actual living wage is problematic both for the individuals making $10.25 per hour and for our communities as a whole, she said. "The consequences start with the families themselves," Sheppard said. "If you’re not able to make a living wage that means that either you have less of a standard of living for your family…or you’re working multiple jobs or you’re taking on debt or you’re doing that kind of stuff."

Families unable to make ends meet have less money to spend in the community and so the local economy suffers.

Sheppard said to solve the problem they’d like to see employers adopt living wage policies and also look at creating full-time positions rather than multiple part-time ones, to give people more financial security.

Social Planning Cowichan did not make any suggestions for a politically driven solution.

Other living wages calculated in B.C. include Victoria and Vancouver at sky-high $20.05 and $20.68 per hour respectively, and communities closer in size to Cowichan such as Parksville at $17.66, Kamloops at $17.95 and the Fraser Valley at $17.27.

For a full copy of the 2015 Living Wage Report go to www.socialplanningcowichan.org.