The weird history of Manitoba’s minimum wage

Reuters/Mark Blinch

Manitoba’s minimum wage increased to $11.65 on Tuesday, 30 cents above the previous rate.

Although recent increases have been in line with inflation rates, the province has a long history of minimum wage laws that seem unusual, to say the least, in 2019.

According to Manitoba Employment Standards’ Historical Summary of Minimum Wage Rates in Manitoba, the province’s first minimum wage was set in 1921 at 25 cents an hour, but only applied to women.

Boys under 18 were added ten years later, and by 1934, the statute was amended to include male workers as well.

Beginning in the 1930s, the province had separate minimum wages for urban and rural workers as well, with those in the city receiving four cents more an hour than rural workers.

READ MORE: Manitoba’s minimum wage to increase Oct. 1

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By 1945, a separate youth minimum wage was instituted – 20 cents an hour for males, which increased to 30 cents after six months of employment.

The minimum wage for men became the same across the board, regardless of location, by the end of the ’40s, but separate, lower wages were paid for women depending on whether they were urban or rural, and full-time or part-time.

The separate wage for women persisted until 1960, when both sexes earned the same minimum wage, but the urban and rural distinctions were back. Young workers continued to earn 48 cents an hour up until 1967, while adult wages increased every few years.

By late ’67, the rural/urban divide was completely gone and all adults received a minimum of $1.10 an hour, but a separate minimum wage for youths persisted.

That lasted all the way until April 1988, when the youth minimum wage and adult minimum wages became the same – $4.70 an hour.

Despite an increase to $11.65 an hour in October 2019, a number of other provinces and territories continue to have higher minimum wages than Manitoba – with Alberta, BC, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, and Yukon all at $12 an hour or more.

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Minimum wage in Manitoba: is it time for more change? – Jan 12, 2018