Most people start out working for minimum wage. My first four jobs were minimum wage. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Except, perhaps, the fact that this all happened during high school and university when I had a great (financial) support system behind me (thanks, mom and dad).
However, minimum wage becomes an issue when you no longer have parents to depend on. It becomes a colossal mess when you start becoming the support system for your own family.
Minimum wage is the legal minimum that employers are required to pay their employees. The minimum wage is different depending on where you live, but one fact remains: It is not enough to live.
Let’s examine one of the densely populated Canadian cities as an example. Toronto is home to 2.8 billion people who work, live, and play within these expensive borders. This summer, the average price of a home increased 17.7% to over $700,000 and detached homes in Toronto has hit an average of $1.2 million. Renters are looking at an average of $1,700 per month for a one-bedroom apartment, and these prices are extremely higher in popular areas along the subway line. These prices are expected to rise further. Research says that the current hourly wage needed to live in Toronto is $7.52 more than the current minimum wage in Ontario. Over 70,000 people are trying to live on minimum wage in Toronto alone, which is an extremely difficult, if not impossible attempt. And this is not only true of Toronto, but all across Canada.
What is the result? Well, a lot of people barely making it to their next pay cheque.
What is the reaction? A push for living wage.
Living wage is way different than minimum wage, and can have a remarkable impact on the community and businesses. Calculated based on a family of four, living wage is the actual amount that earners in a family need to make to meet daily basic needs, such as shelter, food, resources, transportation, and childcare. Minimum wage can’t do that.
To businesses, living wage is a little more of a paradox, which is why there is some corporate resistance. On one hand, businesses that support living wage are providing their employees with fair wages that support a healthy lifestyle, which also makes their business prosper because of happy employee and reduced turnover rates. On the other hand, businesses are paying more for employees without a guaranteed return on the investment. It’s the age old dilemma of money over happiness. Or in this case, money over the happiness of their employees.
Good thing for us working for minimum wage, there are tons of Canadian companies that have made the switch for living wages. And I mean tons! Living Wage Canada reports that industries all over the map are honouring higher pay that reflect the cost of living. This is great for many reasons, but most importantly, this growing number proves that some businesses truly care about their employees, their impact on society, and their responsibility to provide more than making ends meet.
What can we do to help this cause? Support the Living Wage cause by researching and buying from living wage companies, standing up to the big (money-hungry) guys, and sharing stories. Living wage can be the future for the majority—we just need to help push it in the right direction.
Want to know if your favourite brand/company supports living wages? Check out livingwagecanada.ca to learn more!
About the Author
Victoria Vercillo works as a Media Strategist by day, and a dance teacher by night. Writing has not only been a lifelong passion of hers, but also the ideal way to combine her eduction and experience into something that can be shared. Victoria is an avid researcher with a love for culture, creativity, and witty remarks.