A couple living in Vancouver with two small children needs to earn a minimum of $18.17 an hour each – $36.34 – if they hope to cover basic living expenses, according to a report released today by the Canadian Centre For Policy Alternatives.

The CCPA calculated the wage from the region’s average basic expenses such as rent, childcare, food and transportation, while taking into account taxes and deductions, said Seth Klein, co-author of the study.

“This is a very conservative calculation,” said Klein, adding it’s based on a bare-bones budget that doesn’t allow for mortgage or credit card payments, RRSP contributions, or savings for their childrens’ university or retirement.


“About 40 per cent of families with children in Metro Vancouver are below the living wage income, which gives you some indication of how many families struggle to make ends meet,” Klein said.

“(When) I walk employers through the calculation, a lot of them take a sharp breath when they hear the number ($18.17), but when I walk them through the (hypothetical budget), I’ve never heard them say it’s unreasonable,” he said.

“We’re hoping employers will choose to become living wage employers … particularly in the public sector where there’s a responsibility to set a standard to ensure healthy childhood development.”

Last week, New Westminster city council voted unanimously to adopt a living family wage for its staff and contract employees, the first municipality in Canada to do so.

Coun. Jaimie McEvoy said staff will receive a minimum income of $16.74 an hour – the calculated living wage for 2008.

“It just seemed to be wrong to have people living in poverty while being paid to work for a public body,” he said.

“Metro Vancouver (has) one of the highest costs of living in the country and the lowest minimum wage, so that leaves a pretty big gap for people to struggle with. If you work, you should not be living in poverty.”

McEvoy said it will cost the city $150,000 to raise the wages of its lowest-earning employees to $16.74.

“It’s a really small part of the budget (but it) is a big difference (to families),” he said.

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