By the numbers: Here’s the living wage in 10 Ontario regions

Posted on November 17, 2022 in Policy Context

Source: — Authors:
Nov 14, 2022.   Written by Justin Chandler

The Ontario Living Wage Network has released updated calculations — and issued new calls for action

HAMILTON — How much do you need to earn to get by in Ontario? According to the Ontario Living Wage Network, much more than minimum wage — and more than you needed last year.

In Ontario, the minimum wage is now $15.50 per hour, having risen from $15 in October. According to the OLWN, in 2021, the highest living wage was $22.08 for residents in Toronto. In 2022? The number has risen to $23.15 for the GTA— and every area has seen an increase.

That’s according to the organization’s updated set of living wages, released November 14.

“This is really about a rate that allows someone to participate in our community and not just to get by,” Ted Hildebrandt, a planner with the Social Planning and Research Council of Hamilton, said at a press conference at Hamilton’s Workers Arts and Heritage Centre. In Hamilton, the living wage went from $17.20 in 2021 to $19.05.

What Is a Living Wage?

What’s the difference between miniimum wage and a living wage? Find out in this short explainer. explainer: What is a living wage?

Play Video:

The OLWN, founded in 2017, is funded by fees from certified employers and supporter organizations. It has certified over 500 employers who pay a living wage.

It calculates rates based on the after-tax amount that people in three types of situations would need to buy a basket of goods and services. That basket includes food, shelter, child care, transportation, medical expenses, a modest vacation, and an emergency fund. (It does not include retirement or education savings, home ownership, or debt repayment.) The situations are a family of two adults aged 35 with children aged seven and three; a single parent, 35, with a seven-year-old; and a single adult. The wage calculation takes into account government support such as the Canada Child Benefit and is based on a weighted average of those three family types, using the 2016 census.

Living wage rates have gone up throughout Ontario. (Ontario Living Wage Network)

This year is the first in which the OLWN has used an approach based on Statistics Canada’s economic regions. (Previously, it used a mix of political boundaries to calculate rates for 28 communities, but it did not capture all of Ontario.) In a news release, program manager Anne Coleman writes that the new method will allow “every employer in the province … to seek certification with us.”

The highest increase in the province was in Sault Ste. Marie, which went from $16.20 in 2021 to $19.70 this year — a 21.6 per cent increase. According to the OLWN, in 13 areas (defined by the previous boundaries), the rate has gone up over 10 per cent.

Hildebrandt notes that the OLWN uses a “conservative” accounting of shelter costs based on data from the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, which reflects the rents people are paying — not asking rents, which tend to be significantly higher.

“It’s important to remember that the living wage doesn’t reflect necessarily all the costs that that many families are facing these days,” says Tom Cooper, who directs the Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction and is one of the co-founders of the OLWN. “It doesn’t account for debt repayment or saving for education. So, in that sense, it’s a very no-frills type budget.” He added that he thinks debt repayment is something the OLWN needs to look at next year, because “debt repayment is becoming a bigger and bigger burden on families, particularly low-income families.”

At the news conference, Karl Andrus, a community-benefits manager with the Hamilton Community Benefits Network (which is itself a living-wage employer), said that the Just Recovery Coalition of community organizations in Hamilton is calling on the city to pay all its workers and subcontractors a living wage. (Previous efforts have focused on pushing the city to pay students a living wage, which it has not done.)

“This is partially an aspirational number, but it is evidence-based as well,” Cooper says. “And, so, we’re encouraging those employers who aren’t at this level to step up and pay a living wage, because that’s the minimum their employees need — as we’ve seen inflation at its highest point in four decades, it’s even more critical.”

Andrus also said he wanted to acknowledge that Ontario Disability Support Program and Ontario Works payments have largely been stagnant. “When we’re talking about the barest living wage for workers to thrive, to have a family, to participate in our society, there are vast swaths of the city of Hamilton that are existing on substandard ODSP and OW rates,” Andrus said. “While it’s incumbent on all employers to pay the wages their workers are due, to establish fair wages in their society, and to at least meet that minimum threshold for the living wage, it’s also incumbent on us to call on political leaders to look at those OW, ODSP and CPP disability rates that are lagging far behind this number.”

The OLWN says that it will publish updated rates on the second Monday of each November going forward.

Tags: , , , ,

This entry was posted on Thursday, November 17th, 2022 at 9:51 am and is filed under Policy Context. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

Leave a Reply