The cost of food and housing has spurred Metro Vancouver’s largest ever increase to its living wage, according to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.
In its annual report, the think-tank calculated the latest stats with two essentials as the main considerations to determine living wages for 22 communities in B.C.: cost of food and shelter.
The living wage determines the hourly income that two parents working full-time would need to provide for a family of four, covering necessities such as food, housing and child care.
In 2022, the minimum living wage in Metro Vancouver increased to $24.08 per hour, the highest it’s been since first calculated in 2008. That’s compared to last year when the wage was $20.52 – a 17 per cent increase – and well above the province’s minimum wage of $15.65 per hour.
In the Fraser Valley, this year’s living wage is estimated at $18.98.
Living wages are rising in every community calculated by the group.
“With general inflation shooting up to a 40-year high this year, and with the cost of food rising even faster and rent increasing everywhere, especially for families that need to move and are no longer protected by rent control, it’s not surprising to see such big increases this year,” said Anastasia French, Living Wage for Families provincial manager, in a news release.
Prices at grocery stores and restaurants are rising across the province, as well. Acording to BC food costing survey data, prices in Metro Vancouver are up 16.9 per cent over last year, rising to $1,114 per month. It is the second-largest cost for families, behind only housing. This data wasn’t available for food costs in the Fraser Valley.
The organization noted that the living wage leaves a large gap compared to the province’s minimum wage.
Iglika Ivanova, senior economist with the organization, said that B.C. government’s past efforts to improve affordability for families with young children were offsetting the increases in cost for food, housing and other essentials up until this year.
“… The savings generated by these policy changes, including significant child care investments and the elimination of MSP premiums, have now been effectively wiped out by ballooning rent and food costs.”
While the group commended the roughly 400 certified living wage employers in the province, they said that the labour market alone cannot solve pressures of high cost of living for everyone.
“Good public policy can make life more affordable for families and when government transfers don’t keep up with the rising cost of living, the families hardest hit are headed by already marginalized earners, including single mothers, Indigenous people and recent immigrants,” Ivanova said.