Living Wage is Calculated for the Sunshine Coast

A view of Gibsons from atop Soames Hill

A new report from the Sunshine Coast Foundation and Living Wage for Families BC has estimated that the 2021 living wage for the Sunshine Coast is $19.79 per hour. A Living Wage is the amount that each adult must make to support the basic expenses of a family with two young children, once government taxes, credits, deductions, and subsidies are considered. It is different from, and usually higher than, the minimum wage, which is the legal minimum that employers must pay.

“We know that many families on the Coast are struggling and need support from local charities”, said Foundation Board Chair Manjit Kang. “This report helps us understand why they are falling behind.”

Housing remains the most expensive item in a family’s budget with the median monthly rent for a three-bedroom unit, including utilities, insurance, and internet, calculated at $2,005. This is the average amount that people on the Coast may be paying for the rental of a 3-bedroom property and does not reflect the cost of new listings, which has increased dramatically in recent years. As a result, at $19.79 per hour, the living wage is a conservative estimate of actual living expenses.

Even with the recent significant investment in childcare in BC, it remains one of the largest expenses for a family after housing, at $1,523 per month.

The living wage, while offering a more dignified lifestyle than subsistence living, does not include savings for education, retirement, or a down payment, debt repayment, or the costs of caring for aging parents.

The calculation of the living wage is based on a consistent formula used over time and across the province, enabling comparisons with prior years and other communities. A living wage for the Sunshine Coast was calculated in 2011 at $18.80 an hour and, by 2015, it had risen to $19.25. The current estimate represents a 5.25% increase over the past decade.

“The pandemic has revealed how much of our economy depends on undervalued and underpaid workers in service and care industries”, said Anastasia French, Living Wage for Families BC Organizer. “Public sector employers and private companies can support poverty reduction efforts and pandemic recovery by paying a living wage. This will stimulate the local economy because lower-income families tend to purchase close to home,” she added.

In 2021, Living Wage for Families BC certified over 100 new living wage employers across the province, which is double the amount of any previous year. Employers are finding that paying a living wage is a solution to some of the pandemic-related hiring challenges.

“Paying a living wage generates employee loyalty, which reduces overall human resources costs,” said Tara Chernoff, Vice President of First Credit Union in Powell River, a certified Living Wage Employer. “It also feels good to know that we are helping local families to live a dignified lifestyle.”

While a living wage is one opportunity to ensure that local families can make ends meet, public policies can also help by reducing the cost of necessities. For example, the report notes the provincial government’s decision to eliminate MSP premiums.

In the coming weeks, the Foundation will meet with decision-makers, local charities, employers, workers, and others to discuss the implications of the living wage and public policies that might reduce local costs of living.

The full living wage report is available for download.

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