ANALYSIS: Minimum Wage Committee Report

The Minimum Wage Committee just released their report, recommending a minimum wage hike of $0.55 scheduled for April, 2019. While this is at least $0.35 higher than any minimum wage hike for the past six years (which should be celebrated), it still falls dramatically short of a living wage and – even according to the commission’s own logic – keeps full-time workers in poverty.

Since 2008, the Minimum Wage committee has used Statistics Canada’s Low Income Cut Off (LICO) as their measure for setting the minimum wage. The major insight leading to their recent recommended wage hike was that the average work week for full time workers is 37 hours, not the 40 hours that they used in their calculations. Considering a 37 hour work week and a city with a population of 30,000 to 99,000 people, a worker would have to earn $11.90/hour to reach LICO. Considering inflation rate projections, a $0.55 raise each year would allow the minimum wage to reach LICO by 2021.

Now – even according to the committee’s own logic – this puts workers beneath the LICO for three years. Additionally, these calculations are based on living expenses within cities smaller than 100,000 residents, and therefore does not apply to Halifax, where over 42% of Nova Scotia’s residents reside. This means that full time workers will remain in poverty, especially if they have dependents, illness, or other factors that make life more expensive than the average Canadian.

So, why won’t the committee recommend a $0.90 increase to get many workers at the LICO? The need is definitely present: one in five children in Nova Scotia live in poverty, and according to the CCPA, 40% of children living in poverty live with at least one full time wage earner. One might presume that their reticence is based on a fear that raising the minimum wage too fast might have negative consequences on the economy – but evidence points to a completely different reality.

The data from minimum wage hikes across the country shows that even dramatic increases to the minimum wage do not result in job losses, but may actually strengthen the economy. Take Ontario, who raised the minimum wage by $2.40 in one go, bringing the wage from $11.60/hr to $14/hour in January of this year. Within 7 months, Ontario was reporting their lowest unemployment rate in decades as well as a drop in food bank usage.

So, either the minimum wage committee makes decisions based on irrational fears, or they believe that somehow minimum wage earners deserve poverty, even when evidence supports the possibility of an economy that provides a more prosperous life for everyone. After all, living wage calculations – which make allowances for people to spend money on social inclusion, as well as the necessities of food, shelter, and clothing – put the living wage for Nova Scotians at $17.75/hr for a city like Antigonish, and $19/hr for within Halifax.

At Fight for $15 & Fairness, we question the logic that puts full time workers in poverty. We believe that all workers deserve rights, benefits, and fair wages; and we are bolstered by the successes of our movement that prove that these things are not only possible, but beneficial to our society at large. That is why a growing number of health care professionals, teachers, small businesses, and faith-based groups have joined our movement. Here in Nova Scotia, we hope that our confidence is contagious, because we know that if we fight for $15, we will win!

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