A province where every worker can thrive
We’ve always believed that work should be a pathway out of poverty, not a perpetuator of it.
Despite being a wealthy province, BC has the highest rate of working poverty in Canada. This means that a significant number of people who work and pay taxes do not earn enough income to meet their basic needs.
Our work first emerged in 2006, with the recognition that many children below the poverty line were living in homes where at least one parent was working full-time, year-round.
We began with the development of a living wage calculation – the hourly amount that a worker must earn to meet their basic expenses and avoid working poverty.
Since then, our efforts have expanded to encompass awareness building, advocacy and Living Wage Employer certification. We take pride in certifying hundreds of employers who commit to paying their direct staff, as well as contracted workers, a living wage.
In recent years, the combined impact of rising costs of living across the province, with limited adjustments in wages and the precarity of employment means that low-wage workers are still living in poverty – working poverty.
Building our future
We have the solid foundations of organizational partnerships, community relationships and rigorous methodologies. Now as a program of the Vancity Community Foundation, we have the organizational stability we need to be bold in our efforts and accelerate our mission.
The new strategic plan was created through a collaborative effort, engaging employers, calculation partners, unions, and advocates, each contributing to its development and sharing a vital role in bringing it to life.
Our new strategy
Our new vision is a province where every worker can thrive. A living wage is the gateway between surviving and thriving. It is a modest budget, that allows workers to overcome severe financial stress, move beyond working poverty and participate in the social, civic and cultural aspects of life.
To achieve our new vision we know we need to create the conditions for workers to earn a Living Wage. The living wage increased dramatically last year because of the increased cost of essentials like food and rent. We need to expand our work to look at all of the conditions that affect workers earning a Living Wage, focusing not just on income.
We recognize our unique role as a convenor and catalyst. We can collaborate with workers, employers, unions, and governments, we will leverage our tools and collective strengths to advance our mission.
Defining organizational priorities gives us a way to focus our work, make decisions, and position ourselves to have the greatest impact. These three interconnected priorities recognize multiple ways of driving the campaign forward and creating the necessary conditions for change.
These priorities are not isolated. They are highly interconnected and reinforce the relationship between paying a living wage and advocating for policy change. By prioritizing the implementation of living wages, we recognize the immediate impact it has on workers and their families, providing them with economic stability and dignity. However, we also acknowledge that the responsibility of achieving economic justice should not solely rest on employers. For this reason, we also prioritize mobilization and collective advocacy to address underlying issues such as affordability, social safety nets, and the equitable distribution of wealth.
Increase the number of workers earning a Living Wage
The minimum wage in BC falls short of adequately meeting the basic needs of workers. Paying a living wage is a powerful tool to ensure paid work results in a standard of living that is above the poverty line and enables a life that is about more than a constant struggle to get by. While we know that having basic economic security requires more than a wage, we need to increase the number of people earning a living wage in the immediate term to support workers now.
Strategically grow the number of Living Wage Employers
We recognize the unique and critical role of employers in creating the conditions for workers to earn a dignified and sustainable living. We need employers across sectors to be familiar with living wages, understand the benefits, undergo the streamlined certification process, achieve the recognition of their proactive and inclusive organizational commitments, and have the support and community to champion other employers.
Advance income security and affordability
To eliminate working poverty, we need more than short-term solutions. Having a decent standard of living goes beyond earnings to include government income supports, labour market reforms, and accessible and equitable public infrastructure and services that reduce the cost of living and improve affordability. Without these, living wages will continue to increase, and the burden will fall solely on employers. We are determined to advance economic justice by mobilizing a diversity of actors to challenge structures, practices and policies that uphold the conditions for working poverty.
Our tools are the approaches and methods that we use to create the conditions for workers to earn a dignified and sustainable living. While they each have distinct three-year commitments, these tools are interconnected and strengthen one another to drive forward our Priorities.
- Research and Knowledge Exchange- Research forms the backbone of our work, as we employ in-depth and independent research and methodologies to calculate living wages in communities across BC. This involves understanding location-specific economic, social and political conditions that contribute to standards of living in communities. Given the constantly evolving economic landscapes, affordability challenges, and employment dynamics, we are committed to ensure our research remains continuous and adaptive
- Advocacy - Systems and structures in our province and country have created conditions where too many workers struggle to maintain a dignified standard of living. This disproportionately impacts marginalized groups, including single parents, Indigenous Peoples, recent immigrants and racialized workers. Essential public services and infrastructure, such as childcare, transit, affordable housing, and rent control measures, are central to improving affordability and are a critical component of the calculation of living wages. Consequently, we must prioritize policy advocacy as a significant component of our toolkit
- Awareness - Even though we have dedicated nearly a decade to elevating the Living Wage Campaign with our partners and the wider poverty-reduction community, we still have a long way to go to have a province-wide understanding of the prevalence and realities of working poverty, as well as the solutions required to create economic justice and security for all. Raising awareness of these critical issues not only helps to increase the number of Living Wage Employers and those earning a living wage, but also serves as a catalyst in addressing the insufficiency of the minimum wage to meet the current cost of living in BC.
- Engagement - Engagement is central to our work. We are a collaboration of union partners, employers and advocates, working together to advance our mission to collaboratively create the conditions for workers in BC to earn a living wage. We recognize the complexity of working poverty and the areas of influence, such as public systems and structures, economic conditions and labour markets, and its consequences, such as poorer health outcomes, diminished quality of life, reduced economic productivity and greater demands on social and community services. It is only by engaging all our partners that we can address these complex issues.
- Organisational Capacity – We have achieved remarkable progress as a lean organization operating with a Campaign Lead and contractors. However, with almost 400 certified employers and a renewed focus on growth, there is a need to strengthen the organizational capacity and infrastructure to accelerate progress toward our vision
Join us in creating a province where every worker can thrive.
Our ambitions will only be achieved if we can bring everyone together to help achieve our goals.
If you would like to get more involved in our work, please reach out to Anastasia French, Provincial Manager, Living Wage for Families BC.
Please feel free to get in touch.