B.C.’s minimum wage increases to $17.40 Saturday, but is it enough to live on?

British Columbia’s minimum wage is increasing by 65 cents an hour on June 1 but two groups say more change is needed for workers struggling to make ends meet.

A new analysis of Statistics Canada data by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and Living Wage for Families B.C. shows one-third of workers in the province don’t make a living wage — the hourly rate two working adults need to earn to meet a family of four’s basic needs like food, clothing, housing and transport.

The living wages calculated by the two organizations vary from $20.64 in Dawson Creek to $26.51 in Clayoquot Sound — all above the new minimum wage in B.C. of $17.40.

“Any increases to the minimum wage are a good thing,” said Anastasia French with Living Wage for Families B.C.

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“What we need the government to do is to increase the minimum wage to at least $20 an hour and also look at what they can do to lower the cost of housing and … food so we can close that gap between the minimum wage and the living wage.”

The report says workers not earning a living wage can work multiple jobs, face debt or make tough choices on essential expenses. Some turn to charities or food banks. Others suffer physical and mental health problems.

‘Gender and racial gap’

The authors used data from Statistics Canada’s Labour Force Survey to look at the 400,000 workers in B.C. making less than $20 per hour and the 650,000 who don’t earn a living wage in seven of the province’s largest urban areas.

Of those earning less than $20 hourly, 59 per cent are women, 52 per cent are racialized and 56 per cent are aged 25 or older.

A woman stands outside of an office building.
Anastasia French of Living Wage for Families B.C. says the province should increase the minimum wage to at least $20 an hour. (CBC)

“There’s a real gender and racial gap,” said French. “Half of all racialized women in Metro Vancouver don’t earn a living wage.”

French says action is needed to both increase pay for low-wage workers and lower costs of living, especially food and housing.

The $20 minimum wage her group is advocating for is “realistic,” she said, but the Canadian Federation of Independent Business said in a May statement that mandating a $20-an-hour living wage would put more than 75,000 small businesses in B.C. at risk of becoming unprofitable.

That group says business owners think the government should focus on tax changes, housing initiatives and targeted support for low-income earners to help affordability.

LISTEN | The push for a living wage in B.C.: 

The Early Edition7:38B.C.’s minimum wage increase still leaves hundreds of thousands of workers short — report

A new report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives says the bump in minimum pay isn’t nearly enough. And it falls short of a living wage for people across the province.

Minimum wage ‘highest of all provinces,’ says ministry

B.C.’s Ministry of Labour says it is reviewing the report but acknowledged people “across the province are finding it difficult to make ends meet” and global inflation is adding pressure.

“This government has made consistent increases to the minimum wage since 2017 to prevent the lowest paid workers from falling behind,” it said in an emailed statement.

WATCH | B.C.’s rising minimum wage: 

B.C.’s minimum wage to increase to $17.40 an hour on June 1

3 months ago

Duration 2:04

B.C. is now linking minimum wage increases to the province’s average rate of inflation. As Meera Bains tells us, that means B.C.’s lowest-paid workers will see a pay raise of 65 cents an hour on June 1.

“The minimum wage had been frozen for most of a decade and was one of the lowest in Canada as recently as 2016. With this increase, it will be the highest of all provinces.”

The 3.9 per cent pay bump this year reflects B.C.’s average annual inflation rate in 2023, the province says.

The province first tied minimum wage increases to inflation in 2022. In 2023, B.C. raised the minimum wage by 6.9 per cent.

It noted future increases will continue to be tied to inflation and said the government has taken action on affordability through reduced costs for child care, electricity, and car insurance, along with a cap on rental increases and measures to address food insecurity.


Posted in CBC