Waterloo Region increases new minimum wage for 2018

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Graphic by Alan Li

The Living Wage Waterloo Region released their most recent report on the hourly wage for 2018 last week.

The new living wage for the Waterloo Region sits at 16 dollars and 10 cents per hour for 2018.

The living wage is the hourly wage an employee needs to earn to cover their family’s basic expenses within their community.

Since the announcement of the increase of the minimum wage for Ontario, the Living Wage for Waterloo region is glad to see the gap between the two beginning to close.

The minimum wage will rise to 14 dollars per hour on Jan. 1, 2018 and 15 dollars per hour in 2019. This is an increase from the current rate of $11.60 per hour in 2017.

“We are narrowing that gap between the minimum wage and the living wage which is great,” Anne Coleman, program manager for Living Wage Waterloo Region, said. “This means that more people will have more money in their pockets which they will be able to put back into the community.”

Employers who pay their employees at least the living wage are doing so voluntarily. All businesses have the opportunity to commit to paying the living wage of their community as a minimum wage for employees.

“Someone who is working full time at the current minimum wage of $11.60 doesn’t have enough money to cover all of their expenses,” Coleman said.

Currently there are 44 employers in the Waterloo Region who pay their employees at least the minimum living wage and these employers are recognized through the Ontario Living Wage Network.

In order to calculate the living wage, Living Wage Waterloo Region looks at the cost of living. This includes food, clothing, shelter, childcare, transportation, medical expenses, recreation and a modest vacation. Each category is researched for prices specific within each community in order to get the most accurate calculation.

“[These employers] go above and beyond for their employees,” Coleman said. “[They] have made a real commitment to the living wage and that makes a difference for their employees in the community.”

Although – along with the many benefits of raising the minimum wage – the increase may also make people ineligible for some government funding programs such as the Ontario Works program or any program based off income and assets per home.

“It’s a good thing that it increases the income coming into the home, but it might affect some of their eligibility for the program [Ontario Works],” Carolyn Schoenfeldt, director of employment and income services at Region of Waterloo, said.

The Waterloo Region has committed to recalculating the living wage every year to keep the community and employers up to date with the current costs.

In order to calculate the living wage, Living Wage Waterloo Region looks at the cost of living. This includes food, clothing, shelter, childcare, transportation, medical expenses, recreation and a modest vacation. Each category is researched for prices specific within each community in order to get the most accurate calculation.

“[It’s important] for employers to know that they are providing a wage for the employees to pay for their basic expenses and have a little extra to be a part of the community,” Coleman said.

The living wage minimum is used as a practical tool to reduce poverty through paid work.

“As the gap between the minimum wage and the living wage decreases, that is only going to be a positive for workers in low wage positions,” Coleman said.

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