Whitehorse’s living wage calculated

The living wage in Whitehorse – what it costs to pay for basic needs like food and housing – is $19.12 an hour, according to a new report.

The living wage in Whitehorse – what it costs to pay for basic needs like food and housing – is $19.12 an hour, according to a new report.

The minimum wage in the territory is $11.07 an hour.

The report was released by the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition last week. It’s the first time the living wage has been calculated in the city, though several communities across Canada have done so using the methodology set out by Living Wage Canada.

The calculation is the hourly wage that a family requires to meet its basic needs, once government transfers have been added to the family’s income and deductions have been subtracted.

According to the coalition, it is designed to be a measure of poverty in communities. People who make less than the living wage “will face significant challenges meeting basic needs,” the organization said in a news release.

“When the minimum wage is $11 an hour, and people need $19 to get by, that’s telling,” said Kendall Hammond, the author of the report.

“You see a lot of negative consequences when wages do not line up with the cost of living,” he said, such as people working multiple jobs and not having time to spend with their children, living in substandard housing or staying in negative relationships for economic reasons.

Whitehorse’s living wage is one of the highest in Canada, primarily due to the cost of housing, according to the data. The wage in Yellowknife is slightly higher, at $20.68.

The calculation is based on a family of four – two adults working full-time jobs and two children.

In Whitehorse, 79 per cent of families are headed by couples and 60 per cent of these households have two or more children. But, as the report notes, this double-income model family doesn’t represent everyone.

Single-parent households are “significantly worse off” financially, said Hammond. A parent with just one child would have to earn five or six dollars more an hour in order to be on par with a two-parent, two-child household.

Kristina Craig, co-ordinator for the anti-poverty coalition, said the living wage is too high. She pointed to jobs in the service industry, where employees aren’t making $19 an hour.

“It is a reflection that this is an expensive place to live,” she said.

If calculated annually, Craig said the living wage is a way to gauge how the cost of living changes in the city from year-to-year, and to measure the effects of new policies or programs.

“Our hope is that we can have a conversation in the community about what we can support and what we can do to get the living wage down or to get incomes up,” she said. “I don’t think it’s a one-or-the-other issue.”

For instance, Craig said, reducing the lowest income tax rate to five percent would reduce the living wage by 20 cents, while investing in social housing that lowers the median rental rate by 10 per cent would reduce the living wage by $1.55.

“Anything that can reduce household expenditures is going to lower the amount of money that people have to earn,” said Hammond.

He suggested subsidizing public transit for low-income people and increasing childcare programming.

Craig said the coalition intends to reach out to the Yukon and Whitehorse chambers of commerce and the territory’s employment standards board in the fall to further examine ways to bring the living wage down.

Contact Rhiannon Russell at

rhiannon.russell@yukon-news.com

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