New ‘living wage’ calculated for Fraser Valley

Local group says $16.37 an hour required to obtain basic needs

  • May. 2, 2013 8:00 p.m.

Kerrie-Ann Schoenit

and Vikki Hopes

Black Press

A local group says a Fraser Valley family of four needs both parents to be working full-time and each earning a minimum hourly wage of $16.37 in order to obtain basic needs and escape “severe financial stress.”

Living Wage Fraser Valley (LWFV), hosted by Vibrant Abbotsford, has calculated the “living wage” for the area from Aldergrove to Hope/Boston Bar.

The figure was released this week. A living wage is calculated based on a budget for a healthy family of four with two children aged four and seven, and each parent working 35 hours a week for 52 weeks a year.

It takes into account basic expenses such as food, housing, childcare, clothing and transportation once government taxes, credits, deductions and subsidies have been factored in.

The living wage does not consider home ownership, debt, holidays, saving for retirement or a child’s education, or caring for a disabled, ill or elderly family member.

LWFV coordinator Allison Homer admits that the budget is “bare-bones.” She said it brings attention to the plight of many families who are trying to survive on less than that, such as minimum wage, which starts at $10.25 in B.C.

She said 43 per cent of children living in poverty come from families where at least one adult has a full-time job.

“A lot of families are just one paycheque away from living in poverty,” Homer added.

She said employees who earn a living wage tend to stay longer at their jobs – saving hiring and training costs for their employers – and experience less stress and illness, reducing absenteeism from work.

While many employers might be scared off by the $16.37 figure, Glen Ogren, president of the Hope & District Chamber of Commerce, said there are currently several businesses in the local area providing a living wage through either wages or a combination of wages and benefits.

“A living wage is a great goal for every business to strive for,” he said.

“However there needs to be the ability for business owners to get their goods to market. It is not just incumbent on business to provide all its resources. It also is incumbent upon government to provide a culture where business can take place.”

Ogren pointed out that many local businesses can’t afford to pay that kind of wage as they rely a great deal on seasonal tourism dollars.

When the amount of traffic dwindles in the region, it brings added stress for financial security.

“By working with governments to reduce red tape, by working with the employees for acceptable scheduling when a full-time job is unpractical, by working with business groups to help recognize untapped markets, a living wage can be realized,” he added.

LWFV is part of the Living Wage for Families’ Employer Recognition Process, which certifies employers who are paying a living wage.

The organization meets regularly to discuss ways of increasing community awareness, influencing local policy and recognizing employers. For more information, visit vibrantabbotsford.ca.