$17.36 per hour needed to get by in Edmonton, says living wage report

WATCH ABOVE: As the debate around minimum wage continues, an Edmonton council has calculated exactly how much a family will need to earn to truly make ends meet.

EDMONTON — How much does it cost for a family of four to live in Edmonton? $17.36 per hour, according to a local non-profit.

The Edmonton Social Planning Council estimates two working adults, caring for two children, would need to earn at least $34.72 an hour in total ($17.36 per adult) to meet the family’s basic needs.

The council came up with the living wage after taking a close look at the actual local costs of food, rent, utilities, clothing, child care, transportation, communications and more.

The wage was calculated using the typical expenses of a family of four living in a three-bedroom rental apartment, with two adults working 35 hours each a week, and one of the adults enrolled in school part-time, with two children, aged three and seven.

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The calculation was based upon rent and child care costs being just over $1400 a month, and just under $900 being spent on groceries. The calculations had one parent driving the family car to work, and the other parent taking public transit. (Scroll down for a full break down of expenses.)

Not included in the calculations: expenses such as debt payments, or savings for things like retirement, vacations, or children’s post-secondary education.

The calculation is based on the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives’ (CCPA) Living Wage Canada framework that other cities have used.

“This living wage comes at a time when our provincial government is raising the minimum wage. Our calculation gives all levels of government and employers a comprehensive picture of what it costs to live in this city,” said ESPC executive director Susan Morrissey.

“Not only does it serve as a way to compare Edmonton’s cost of living with other cities, but the living wage is also an effective tool in reducing poverty.”

READ MORE: Alberta minimum wage going up to $11.20 on October 1

The council says the living wage represents the hourly income needed to cover the cost of living at a modest level, adding minimum wages do not come close to meeting the actual cost of living.

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The council says employers who pay a living wage come out on top as well, pointing to research indicating those who provide a living wage benefit from decreased staff turnover, improved productivity and reduced absenteeism.

The calculation places Edmonton slightly above Calgary’s living wage of $17.29 calculated in 2014, Red Deer’s $16.48 calculated in 2013 and Grande Prairie’s $15.55 calculated in 2012.

“The issues surrounding poverty are incredibly complex. We need the right tools for planning and the right strategies in place to address these issues,” said Allan Undheim, vice-president of Community Building and Investment for United Way of the Alberta Capital Region.

“This is why the living wage calculation is such an important tool.”

Edmonton’s living wage calculation

Annual family expenses = Employment income + Income from government transfers – Taxes

Major Family Monthly Expenses

  • Food – $884.17
  • Clothing and Footwear – $164.04
  • Shelter – $1,416
  • Transportation – $460.47
  • Utilities – $218.96
  • Bank Fees – $24.50
  • Communications (cable, cell-phone) – $148
  • Child Care – $1,406.33
  • Extended Health/Dental – $260
  • Child school fees – $20
  • Parent’s continuing education – $143.04
  • Household furnishings, misc – $441.04
  • Contingency fund – $101.27

Total – $5,687.94

Non-Wage Monthly Income (Government Transfers)

  • Canada Child Tax Benefit – $196.44
  • Universal Child Care Benefit – $220
  • Child Care Subsidy – $634
  • Alberta Family Employment Tax Credit – $57.02

Total – $1,107.46

Monthly Household Income Less Government Deductions plus Gov. Transfers

  • Employment Income – $63,190.40
  • Taxes – $8,218.54
  • After-Tax Income – $54,971.86
  • Non-Wage Income – $13,289.46
  • Available Income – $68,261.32
  • Family Expenses- $68,255.24
  • Gap – $6.08

Living Wage – $34.72 (divided by two adults) $17.36

This calculation does not take into account the costs of debt payments, savings for retirement, vacations, or for their children’s post-secondary education.

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ESPC is an independent, non-profit, non-partisan social research organization, with registered charitable status with a focus on social research, particularly in the areas of low income and poverty.