What Is a Living Wage?

A living wage is the hourly amount a family needs to cover basic expenses

Living-Wage-InfographicThese basic expenses include: 

  • Food
  • Clothing
  • Rental housing
  • Childcare
  • Transportation
  • Small savings to cover illness or emergencies.


The living wage calculation is based on a two-parent family with two children – the most common family unit in BC – and each parent working full-time.

The living wage changes based on costs in each region. Find living wage rates across BC.

Living Wage for Families BC encourages employers to pay a living wage as well as advocates for government policies that would help families make ends meet.

A living wage does not cover additional expenses such as:

  • Debt repayment from credit cards, loans or other interest payments 
  • Future savings for home ownership, retirement or children’s university education 
  • Anything beyond minimal recreation, entertainment and holiday costs 
  • Costs of caring for a disabled, seriously ill or elderly family member 

For full details on the Metro Vancouver living wage calculation, see Working for a Living Wage: Making Paid Work Meet Basic Family Needs in Metro Vancouver by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives - BC Office (CCPA-BC).

More and more British Columbians work in low-wage jobs that do not pay enough to live on

Many children living in poverty in BC live in families with at least one adult working full-time, full year. In other words, child poverty in BC is very much a low-wage story. For most of the past decade, BC’s child-poverty rate has remained at one in five children living in poverty. 

Poor children are being raised in poor families. Of the 27 factors identified as having an impact on child development, up to 80% were seen to improve as family income increases.


A living wage lifts working families out of poverty.

A living wage is different than a minimum wage. The minimum wage is the legislated minimum set by the provincial government. The minimum wage should be set at a rate high enough to lift an individual worker out of poverty. An adequate minimum wage is the government’s responsibility to address working poverty. 

A living wage is an opportunity for employers to do better. A living wage calls on employers to meet a higher standard for their both staff and major contractors, to ensure that wages reflect the true costs of living in a community and that parents can earn what they need to support their families. More than 400 Living Wage Employers across BC agree and have certified with us.

Living Wage for Families BC also advocates for policies that would positively impact families. We support the call for quality and affordable childcare as well as for housing policies that would help low-wage families make ends meet.