It costs $20.11 per hour to live, and raise a family, in the Clayoquot Sound Biosphere Region . $20.11/hour is our regional living wage; the hourly pay that two parents working full-time each need to earn, once government taxes and credits have been accounted for, to maintain an adequate quality of life for a family of four (one boy aged seven and one girl aged four). This equates to a total household income of $73,200.40 annually. Our living wage rose 84 cents from the 2015 living wage rate of $19.27 and we are now the second highest living wage region in BC (Vancouver is the highest at $20.62 per hour).
The living wage calculation is based on the bare-bones expenses of an average family of four; it includes costs such as rent, food, transportation, childcare, healthcare, and a modest budget for social participation and parent education. Once the family expenses have been covered, our living wage family has only five dollars remaining to cover some of the costs not included in the living wage calculation such as savings or debt payments.
New this year in the calculation is the inclusion of two cellphones (talk and text only) rather than a landline, and a basic internet connection. These days more Canadians have cell phones than landlines and a home internet connection is recognized as a requirement for social participation as well as for accessing many government services. The latter is particularly true in rural and remote areas which lack Service Canada centres.
Once again housing and childcare are the top two costs in the living wage calculation this year. Housing costs (median cost of a 3-bedroom rental, utilities, and tenant insurance) rose almost $60 per month since 2015 (rent alone is up $50/month). The median rental cost is used rather than the average cost because the median reflects the true mid-point cost within a range, and therefore is not influenced by high-end rentals and is a more realistic measure of what a low-income family can afford. Childcare costs are up $324 per month and include the median cost of full-time care for a 4-year-old and after-school care and care during school breaks for the 7-year-old.
To illustrate the power of healthy public policy in reducing the living wage we decided to highlight the excellent work being done by some of our communities around highly-subsidized childcare (and in some cases fully- subsidized!). Using the median cost of full-time subsidized childcare for the 4-year-old in the calculation brings our living wage down to $16.77 per hour! Enacting a childcare subsidy policy increases affordability for families and provides social, economic, and health benefits at the community level. In July 2016 the federal government introduced the Canada Child Benefit (CCB), a tax-free, targeted, monthly payment that helps families cover the costs of raising children. Our living wage family will receive $7,722.95 in CCB payments in 2017 which will significantly reduce their financial stress and increase their ability to participate, both socially and economically, in their community.
Issues such as affordable housing and childcare are shared by communities throughout the province and across the nation. By participating in the living wage campaign we hope to raise awareness and encourage advocacy around these issues and others related to working poverty. Please share the living wage information with your friends, family, local elected officials and employers.