Tag Archives: living wage

What does it mean to be “working poor”?

From an editorial in the Guelph Mercury

Consider the case of a Guelph-area single parent of two children, working a minimum wage job. If this parents works 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year, their annual salary (before tax) works out to be $21,320. This falls below Canada’s low-income cut-off, the income threshold below which a family will likely devote a larger share of its income to the necessities of food, shelter and clothing than the average family.

Based on their salary, this family receives $1, 777 (before tax) a month. The average rental cost for a two-bedroom apartment in Guelph is $878 per month and a nutritious food basket for a family of three in this area is around $400 a month. If the parent takes the bus to and from work then they need to tack on another $72 for a monthly public transportation pass. This leaves the family just over $400 per month for taxes, clothing, recreation, childcare and other expenses.

Regardless of how hard this single parent works, $10.25 is clearly an inadequate wage. There is no flexibility in their budget for unexpected costs and they must make daily sacrifices that have long-term effects on their overall quality of life.

Of course, this family could try to get subsidized housing, but the current wait list in Guelph is 3.5 years. They could access the local food bank, as well as neighbourhood and church food pantries, to cut down on their food budget. They could apply for recreation subsidies and buy used clothing. They might even receive child-care subsidies and the GST/HST rebate. All of these supports are meant to help people who are struggling to get by, yet they have little impact on improving their overall quality of life.