News – Designed to reflect the income necessary for a family to live comfortably with everyday basics, the living wage is calculated based on the cost of living in a specific community.
Here in Kingston, the living wage is calculated at $16.58/hour for both parents of a four-person family, Living Wage Kingston announced on Wednesday, Nov. 2 at a media information session held at the Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul.
Up 29 cents from the previous calculation of the living wage for Kingston of $16.29 in 2011, the updated rate reflects both cost-of-living changes, and the new federal Canada Child Benefit. While the small increase might seem to indicate the cost of living in Kingston has risen very little over the past five years, that’s not the case – according to Living Wage Kingston Update October 2016 Report, “The significant increase in the Canada Child Benefit has offset much of the cost of living for those making modest incomes.”
“$16.58 is what [the living wage] is for our sample family, which is a family of four,” explained Cam Jay, a social justice advocate and member of Living Wage Kingston. Jay noted that the formula used to calculate the living wage is one used nationally, and one that takes into account the basics necessary for a two-parent family with two school-aged children.
“That $16.58 is for both parents working full time, so basically around $32,700 is the living wage income [annually] that both parents would have to make to meet what we have calculated as sort of a basic lifestyle.”
While the average total income in Kingston at $48,204 seems like a fairly solid figure, that, too, can be a little misleading, Jay explained. Nearly half of the working population over the age of 15 make less than $30,000 annually, according to data from the Kingston Economic Development Corporation (KEDCO) for 2015 – over 65,000 Kingstonians earn less than $30,000/year, with more people earning $20,000 – 29,999 annually than any other income bracket.
“Kingston has an average wage, based on last year’s figures, of $48,204, but it’s a bit of a trick in the math, because almost half of all Kingston workers make less than $30,000 a year,” Jay said.
“So, what we have is have a group that are making a lot of money, and then a smaller group that’s kind of in the middle, and then this big group that’s making not much money.”
Furthermore, Kingston’s largest working sector is in retail trade, with nearly 11,000 Kingstonians in the retail workforce, which is typically made up of part-time, minimum wage positions. “Kingston’s Job market is now moving solidly towards a precarious work environment,” the Living Wage Kingston Update October 2016 Report states.
Living Wage Kingston, however, offers a means of addressing this issue. As part of a larger organization, the Ontario Living Wage Network, the team aims to raise the number of employers paying their workers a living wage. In fact, the Network has over 150 Living Wage Employers already, whom have signed on and pledged to ensure each of their employees makes the calculated living wage in their community.
“The Ontario Living Wage Network is a network of 30 communities and community organizations and businesses that are working to promote the living wage across Ontario,” explained Greg deGroot-Maggetti, co-chair of the Ontario Living Wage Network.
“Doing the calculations [of the living wages for different communities] was the first step, but the goal is not just to have a calculation, the goal is to invite employers of all sorts – for-profit businesses, not-for-profit businesses, public sector business – to implement living wage.”
There are a variety of benefits to employers and their businesses when they implement the living wage, not the least of which is knowing their employees can live comfortably, make ends meet, and still have enough pocket money to go to a movie every now and then or sign the children up for little league, the group explained. Employees who are paid a living wage are more productive, and come to work ready to work, Jay expressed, and paying a living wage also leads to employee retention, and therefore lowered hiring and training costs. Additionally, employers who have committed to paying a living wage have reported improved morale in the workplace, higher customer satisfaction, and increased employee/customer relationships, added deGroot-Maggetti, noting that in the UK, where the living wage movement began, there are over 3,000 employers who’ve implemented the living wage.
“There are real benefits to organizations of all sorts to implementing living wage because it’s a wage that reflects the actual cost of living in this community, and when workers can meet their daily expenses, they can come to work ready to work and not stressed out wondering if they’re going to be able to pay their rent, or the grocery bill,” he said.
Living Wage Kingston invites local employers interested in finding out more about the Living Wage Employer Program and the benefits of implementing a living wage to contact them for more information. Those interested can contact Cam Jay at 613-328-2901 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or look up Living Wage for Kingston on facebook.
“We recognize that we’ve got a challenge ahead of us, but we’re not backing down from it,” said Jay.
“It’s about time that we turn the corner on this in our city and start realizing that we’re going to have to start looking after our own.”