Redistributive policy

Living wage in Halifax is now $23.50, reports Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives

Nearly half of workers in Nova Scotia do not earn a living wage, according to the latest report from the Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives.

A worker in Halifax needs $23.50 an hour to meet the rising cost of living, concludes Christine Saulnier of the CCPA-NS in the report. That’s up from $22.05 last year. The figure has also increased in the rest of Nova Scotia: in Cape Breton, the figure is $20; in the North region, $20.40; in the Annapolis Valley, $22.40; and in the southern region, $22.55.

The median hourly wage in Nova Scotia in June is $22.80, but women earn less — $21.75, compared to $24.04 for men.

The minimum wage in the province is $13.35, rising to $13.60 on October 1 and to $15 by April 2024.

“Life shouldn’t be a constant struggle. Yet for many Nova Scotians this is their reality, and the challenge of making ends meet has become even more difficult this year,” Saulnier wrote in the report’s introduction.

The CCPA-NS calculates the living wage based on living expenses for a family of four with children between the ages of two and seven.

“The living wage hourly rate would probably not be enough for some families, such as those with more children or younger children requiring more expensive child care or those with only one adult income and more of a child. A single parent with one child and full child care subsidy would be covered,” Saulnier wrote.

The “conservative estimate” includes the following expenses: food; clothes and shoes; shelter (including utilities and internet); transportation; childcare; Health care; unforeseen or emergency expenses; “parent education;” household expenses; and “social inclusion”.

Living wage increases in the province range from 5% in the Annapolis Valley to 8% in Cape Breton, with spending on housing, food and childcare driving the increase.

The tables in the report show living wage increases for the Annapolis Valley, Cape Breton, Halifax, North and South regions.

Two tables in the report show living wages and budget lines by region. — Screenshot/CCPA-NS

“We haven’t seen this level of increase since we started calculating the living wage in 2016,” Saulnier wrote. “Living wages have risen because there have been no permanent and substantial increases in government income benefits to offset rising costs.”

Saulnier calls on private and public sector employers to pay their employees, whether direct or contract, a living wage.

“Governments should not contribute to the problem by paying poverty wages,” Saulnier wrote.

And she called on the provincial government to raise the minimum wage, noting that the plan to rise to $15 by 2024 is “too slow.”

“Raising the minimum helps level the playing field for all employers. As a legal minimum, a substantial increase in the minimum wage would mean more money in the pockets of Nova Scotia’s massive population of low-wage workers (106,000 workers earn less than $15 an hour, and approximately Another 102,000 earn between $15 and $20),” Saulnier wrote.

“These workers will spend virtually every dollar they earn and stimulate the economy. Strong minimum wage policies reduce the need to use the tax system for redistribution and help boost aggregate purchasing power and aggregate demand.

Saulnier argues that the provincial and federal governments should raise income thresholds for assistance programs like the Canada Child Benefit, the Nova Scotia Child Benefit and the Nova Scotia Affordable Living Tax Credit. Scotland, and reform tax policy generally to ensure that the wealthy pay their fair share.

Governments should also expand public services, Saulnier argued: cheaper and more accessible public transport; truly affordable housing and permanent rent control; food safety; universal pharmacare, dental care and mental health care; and free post-secondary education.

“Solutions need to bridge the gap between cost and revenue needed by addressing both revenue and cost. Governments can ease the burden on employers’ shoulders by directly providing more income benefits to employees or by investing in lower costs for workers. Employers need to increase wages, as well as working conditions, to attract and retain employees,” Saulnier wrote.

“To build a province where everyone can reach their full potential, employers must do their part and pay wages that support workers to enjoy a good quality life.

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