Cost of raising a family in B.C. drops

The living wage is calculated based on the needs of a family composed of two working parents with two young children

New federal child benefit offsets the rising cost of living

The wage needed to support a B.C. family of four has decreased for the first time since 2008, according to an update from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. The decrease is entirely due to the new Canada Child Benefit, which comes into effect on July 1 and is more generous for families with income under $100,000 than the previous system of federal child benefits. 

“Good public policy can positively improve the lives of low wage families, but to see such a dramatic effect across the province was surprising,” says Deanna Ogle, the campaign organizer with the Living Wage for Families Campaign. “We’re especially excited for families that aren’t making a living wage. That’s a substantial amount of families, and they’re going to see an incredible change as a result of this public policy.”

Unlike the minimum wage, which is the legal minimum employers are required to pay, the living wage is the hourly rate at which a household can meet its basic needs in a specific community once government transfers have been added to the family’s income and deductions have been subtracted. In Metro Vancouver, that is $37,565 a year for each parent working full-time.

To illustrate how much government transfers can affect family expenses, if B.C. implemented a $10-a-day child care plan, the Metro Vancouver living wage would drop an additional $3.90 per hour to just $16.74.

The decrease in the wage needed to support a family is more dramatic in some communities than others: since last year, the living wage decreased by 99 cents to $16.28 in the Fraser Valley and 90 cents to $16.76 in Parksville-Qualicum but by just four cents to $20.64 an hour in Metro Vancouver, two cents to $20.03 in Victoria and 30 cents to $16.52 in Prince George.

Conversely, the cost of living in Metro Vancouver increased 3.1 per cent in the past year, double the rate of general inflation: shelter costs rose 5.5 per cent, BC Hydro rates increased six per cent in April 2015 and four per cent in April 2016, food costs rose six per cent, and child care fees increased 2.4 per cent.

According to the CCPA, research has shown that paying living wages benefits employers’ reputations as well as the bottom line by reducing absenteeism and staff turnover; increasing skill, morale and productivity levels; and reducing recruitment and training costs. There are 57 certified living wage employers in B.C., including small businesses like Raised Eyebrow Web Studio, Café Ético, Roadhouse Interactive and Ritual restaurant.

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