Living wage in Yellowknife now $23 per hour, says Alternatives North

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Alternatives North has released a new study on March 6 stating the living wage in Yellowknife has increased to $23.

A working couple with two children would require wages of $23.95 per hour each to cover all essential costs. For a single working adult, that figure is $23.08.

Alberta economist Michel Haener, who created the report, says changes to tax credits and increasing cost of living have produced the increase in the living wage, which is up from $20.96 in 2017.

A graph provided by Alternatives North shows the findings of a 2019 report on living wages. The report also included findings for Hay River and Inuvik.

“Expenses have gone up including food and health care premiums, there’s an estimate in there if a family had to buy their own family plan,” Haener said. “The cost of health care insurance has jumped. Child care has jumped as well.

Haener stated tax credit eliminations have increased tax burden, including part time students writing off monthly education amounts and public transit credits ending.

Haener also noted methodology has changed for considering time spent working, from 40 hour work week to a 37.5 hour work week. The report states this is “a common approach to determining living wages in Canada.”

The report bases states expenses include food, shelter, clothing, transportation, childcare, health care, a modest vacation and social inclusion. Of these expenses the highest is shelter at $24, 185 for a family of four, followed by food and child care costs.

Social inclusion covers the cost of cell phones, internet, cable and Netflix. In Yellowknife, social inclusion costs sit at $8, 385 for a family of four.

The Living Wage report detailed the costs required to cover all basic expenses in these three NWT communities for one year.

“Workers across the NWT must earn well above the current minimum wage in order to earn enough to pay for expenses,” the report states.

Suzette Montreuil from Alternatives North says the new study will be used as an information tool for proactive change on wages in NWT. The information will be distrusted to MLAs on the standing committees for social development next week.

“With cost of living on the rise, there are three choices. We can raise wages, lower costs and increase government transfer income,” Montreuil said.

Montreuil admits is being an idealistic tool to begin the conversation on raising wages.

“We know wages in can be smaller and but this is a tool that assumes households have two working adults. It’s a starting attempt to try to say people need to make more money,” Montreuil said.

Currently, the minimum wage sits at only $13.46 in the NWT.

Information for the study was gathered from NWT Bureau of Statistics and Statcan surveys of household spending.

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