A new study found that the provincial minimum wage is not enough for a family of four to comfortably live in Kelowna.
The Living Wage for Families campaign found that working people in Kelowna would need to earn at least $18.49 an hour in order to meet the most basic costs of raising two children. That is higher than the provincial minimum wage, which is currently at $15.20.
“Families that grew up in poverty often have children that grow up in poverty, and these children end up living in poverty as adults themselves,” said campaign spokesperson Anastasia French. “One way to address working poverty is to ensure that families earn a living wage.”
The rate is calculated based on the cost of essentials like food, transportation, childcare and rent once government taxes, credits, deductions and subsidies have been taken into account.
Rent and childcare are the highest expenses for families in the city, according to French. An October 2021 rent report by Zumper found the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment is $1,610 a month while the average rent for a two-bedroom apartment is $2,180 a month. Childcare can cost more than $1,000 a month depending on the daycare centre. The combination of those two costs alone is more than what a person working full-time at a minimum wage job makes before deductions, roughly $2,432 a month.
French said the gap between the minimum and living wages means a working parent often has to make sacrifices in order to make ends meet. This disproportionately affects marginalized communities: research by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives suggests that racialized workers, women and single parents often work in minimum wage jobs in industries considered essential during the pandemic.
“A working parent often has to work an extra couple of hours a week and even get multiple jobs, in order to make ends meet. That’s time they’re not spending with their families. That’s time they’re not spending in their communities. That has a significant impact,” she said.
But there is hope for the future. More and more employers in the province have committed to paying their employees a living wage, according to French. The John Howard Society of Central and South Okanagan is listed as a living wage employer on the Living Wage for Families BC website.
“Everyone benefits when they can earn a living wage, and we encourage employers to pay all their staff a living wage, not just those with children. We don’t know the individual circumstances that someone is living in,” said French.