Inflation, soaring living costs cause large increase in the living wage on the Sunshine Coast
The living wage has gone up to $24.30 an hour on the Sunshine Coast, a significant increase over the 2021 rate of $19.79, the most recent living wage update shows.
The living wage is the hourly wage that two adults working full-time need to earn to support the basic expenses of a family of four, once government taxes, credits, deductions, and subsidies are considered. It does not include debt repayment or savings for future plans.
The Sunshine Coast has seen a 22.8 per cent increase ($4.51) from last year, when a full Living Wage Report was published by the Sunshine Coast Foundation alongside Living Wage for Families BC. Other communities across the province that have seen staggering living wage increases include Kelowna at $4.39 (23.7 per cent) higher than last year’s rate of $18.49, Victoria at $3.83 (18.7 per cent) higher than last year’s $20.46 and Metro Vancouver at $3.56 (17.3 per cent) higher than last year’s $20.52.
This year, across BC, the living wage has increased in all communities where it has been calculated in the past. The jump is driven by the rapidly rising costs of two essential family expenses: food and shelter.
“With general inflation shooting up to a 40-year high this year, and with the cost of food rising even faster and rent increasing everywhere, especially for families that need to move and are no longer protected by rent control, it’s not surprising to see such big increases this year,” says Anastasia French, Living Wage for Families provincial manager.
At $24.30 per hour, the Sunshine Coast now boasts the third highest living wage among those updated in 2022, right behind Golden ($25.56) and Daajing Giids (Haida Gwaii) ($25.87).
“Life on the Coast is increasingly expensive, and we know that more and more families are turning to local charities to meet their essential needs,” said Foundation Board Chair Manjit Kang. “The sizeable increase in the living wage helps explain how much they are falling behind.”
Across the board, housing remains the most expensive item in a family’s budget. The median monthly rent for a modest three-bedroom unit on the Coast, including utilities, insurance, and internet, has gone up by $212.37 to $2,217.89 (an increase of 10.6 per cent).
At the same time, according to the latest BC food costing survey data, the price of groceries needed for a healthy diet for a family with two young children has spiked sharply. Since 2021, Coasters’ monthly food costs have escalated to $1,238.15, an increase of $266 per month (27.4 per cent).
“Until this year the living wage across most of BC remained below its 2018 peak because policy changes introduced by the BC provincial government significantly improved affordability for families with young children and offset increases in the cost of food, housing and other essentials,” says Iglika Ivanova, senior economist at CCPA-BC.
Plus, a strikingly large gap exists between the 2022 living wages for communities across BC and the province’s minimum wage (currently $15.65 per hour). While many BC employers see the value of paying living wages (with nearly 400 certified Living Wage Employers across the province), Ivanova explains the labour market alone cannot solve all problems of poverty and social exclusion.
“Good public policy can make life more affordable for families and when government transfers don’t keep up with the rising cost of living, the families hardest hit are headed by already marginalized earners, including single mothers, Indigenous people and recent immigrants,” Ivanova says.
Living wage employers include small businesses, non-profit organizations, unions, and cooperatives. These employers have committed to pay all their direct staff and contract employees a living wage and to require their major service providers to also pay a living wage, including for janitorial, security and food service contracts.
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