by Robert Hope

So what's the difference between a "Minimum Wage" and a "Living Wage" and why are they different?
The minimum wage is an Ontario standard, preventing an employer from paying staff any less than this amount. While you would think that this minimum would only apply in unusual circumstances, that fact is that over 9% of those employed in Ontario are paid at this level. The law is designed to protect employees from any company that would like to pay even less than this, but can't because this law prevents them.
You may be told that there are "study groups" that examine this standard, but it is really set by the politicians in power, most of whom are supported by corporations and small businesses to get elected. Certainly a poorly paid worker won't have much time to donate or to volunteer for a politician during election time so unfortunately their opinion doesn't count for very much in the election process.
A "Minimum Wage" system can in fact work, as long as the value doesn't fall below a "Living Wage" rate. The Living Wage is calculated as the amount needed for a person to live, assuming they are performing a 40 hour work week and has been calculated by the local United Way. For an employee to be paid anything less means they must somehow re organize their life to be able to make it to the end of the month. For Owen Sound we know that the Ontario minimum is $11 and a Living Wage is $14.77 per hour. Anyone paid at the current minimum could find an extra job, but this would mean working an extra 14 hours a week to compensate for the difference. Other choices could include eating less nutritional food or going to the food bank. Whatever choices are made, this would create a dramatic difference in life style.
So when does the rest of society notice that there is a problem? I guess if we had people on the street begging for food with a sign explaining. "Help me, I work at a Box-Store" we would understand. Mind you, they would quickly get fired for pointing out the problem in this way. We know that are ways to see that the low wage problem is expanding in Grey and Bruce. We see it through increasing services provided or donated to the working poor. But do we really want to donate to the United Way simply to subsidise substandard pay? Doesn't it make more sense to raise the Minimum Wage to an amount that is actually above the Living Wage?
If our society has set a Minimum Wage to protect people from exploitation, let's have it actually do the job. The impact for Grey Bruce would be fantastically positive since there would create less demand on our social services and we would have more money in circulation. The money would then be in the hands of the employees, which could be spent locally and not carted out of town by box stores and big corporations. Based on current statistical information, I estimate that this would amount to an extra 40 million dollars a year being spent locally in Grey Bruce *.
We don't need the concept of "The Working Poor" in Canada. If you're working 40 hours a week in Canada, you simply shouldn't be poor.
* Notes
People being paid minimum wage in Grey Bruce = 110,000 population x 52% working x 9.3% at minimum wage = 5,320 people
Extra annual income per person at Living wage = ($14.77 Living - $11 Minimum) x 8 hours per day x 250 days per year = $7,540 additional per person
Resultant extra salaries paid in Grey Bruce = 5,320 x 7,540 = $40.1 million per year
Of this: Extra Salaries paid by companies with more than 100 employees (box-stores, big corporate, etc) = 56% x $40.1 million = $22 million per year


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