June 25, 2018
(Halifax, NS)----Covering the costs to raise a family in the Maritimes requires two adults to be working full-time earning a living wage of $19 an hour in Halifax, $18.18 in Saint John and $17.75 in Antigonish.
Since 2016, the living wage rate in Halifax decreased very slightly from $19.17, increased slightly in Antigonish from $17.30. The wages did not change very much because of the full year inclusion of the Canada Child Benefit and its indexation to inflation, which covered all or most of the expense increases.
“As reflected in the wage updates for Halifax and Antigonish, while a decent labour market wage is a necessary contributor to solve the problems of poverty and social exclusion for the working poor, there is also a critical role for government-funded benefits,” states author, Christine Saulnier, Nova Scotia Director of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.
Shelter, child care and food are the most significant expenses in the family budgets in all three communities. We found that Halifax was the community where it was the most expensive to live, driven by the high shelter and child care costs. While Saint John’s budget was surprisingly close to Halifax, with comparable child care costs, rental costs were less expensive as was electricity, and food and clothing were much more expensive. The most significant cost for Antigonish is rent, followed by child care, and then food, which is more expensive than Halifax.
“With the addition of Saint John, we are one step closer to understanding the differences between the Maritime Provinces and communities of varying sizes and rurality in our region, and how families can be supported by a fair and progressive tax system, and the availability of affordable services,” says Natalia Hicks, author of the Saint John Living Wage report.
As Hicks further articulates, “It is clear that achieving a living wage is also about decreasing costs, many of which are best addressed at a societal level through public services, and public infrastructure, including affordable housing, more accessible public transportation and a real system of early learning and child care.”
“I am not surprised that child care costs are the most significant cost in Halifax (at 22%), the highest cost in the budget for Saint John (at 21%) and the second highest for the living wage family budget in Antigonish (at 20%). While we recognize that both provincial governments have made some changes to child care policy, what this calculation shows is that these changes have not gone far enough, says child care expert, Mount Saint Vincent University professor Tammy Findlay.
Dr. Findlay makes the point that, “Most families are still struggling to navigate complicated eligibility requirements for subsidies that only some families can even access. Most families cannot find the care they need in a market-based, patchwork of programs even if they can afford to pay for that care.”
“The living wage is one tool in our toolbox to help low wage workers to bridge the gap between income and costs. Calculating the living wage shines a spotlight on what needs to be done to support families, and more broadly low wage workers, to help everyone attain a good quality of life,” asserts Colleen Cameron from the Antigonish Poverty Reduction Coalition.
The full report, Working for a Living, Not Living for Work: Maritime Living Wages for 2018, is available for download at www.policyalternatives.ca.
For more information and to arrange interviews:
Christine Saulnier, Nova Scotia Director, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Christine@policyalternatives.ca, (902)240-0926.
The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives is an independent, non-partisan research institute concerned with issues of social and economic justice.
The Antigonish Poverty Reduction Coalition is an alliance of individuals, groups, and organizations concerned with poverty alleviation working to address how poverty affects health and well-being in our community.
The Human Development Council identifies and addresses social issues in Greater Saint John through research, information, coordination and networking.