Making a living wage in some Alberta communities is easer than in others, according to a new report.
On Monday, the Alberta Living Wage Network (ALWN) launched its first-ever report highlighting 12 communities across the province.
“Living wage for communities is essentially the dollar value that somebody needs to be paid in order to cover the expenses that they have,” explained Janelle Marietta, the executive director of United Way of Lethbridge and South Western Alberta.
The new report showed the lowest living wage to be in Strathcona County at $16.80/hour, while the highest was nearly $20 greater in Canmore at $36.40/hour.
Calgary and Edmonton saw similar metrics to one another at $18.60/hour and $18.10/hour, respectively.
“It’s important to note that the (living wage) that’s been announced across Alberta is predominantly based off a two-parent, two-child household,” Marietta explained. “Lethbridge and Rocky Mountain House in particular are actually quite a bit lower for the family dynamics when we do those calculations.
“We can see $15/hour is in fact meeting the need of Lethbridge community members when they’re living in the dynamic of two-parent household(s).”
Marietta explained that due to Lethbridge’s high population of individuals living alone, that factor was considered for the city during the ALWN calculations.
This bumped Lethbridge’s living wage up to $19.00/hour, when minimum wage did in-fact suffice for the aforementioned family setting, in conjunction with certain supports.
“Lethbridge is actually really affordable.”
“We are certainly a little lower cost of living in Lethbridge, which supports the ability of families to participate in community life,” said Sharon Yanicki with the Social Health Equity Network of Lethbridge and Area.
Both Marietta and Yanicki are members of the Alberta Living Wage Council.
Yanicki explained benefits can arise for employers by paying their staff a living wage, including boosts in productivity.
“One of the benefits (if you) pay a living wage (is) you’re more likely to have longer retention of your employees and less turnover,” she explained.
“Because of that, it saves the employer costs long-term in terms of recruitment.”
In comparison to the other communities, Lethbridge was found to be offering very affordable childcare, while costs for food and housing were on the rise.
Marietta said things are looking up when it comes to meeting a living wage in the city.
“We discovered through this process (that) about 4,600 vacant positions that are open right now in Lethbridge, (and the) average wage rate for those positions is actually $21.45,” Marietta said.
“We’re excited to see that the $19/hour ask is not a big ask, it’s actually really comparable to what’s being offered in the community now, so Lethbridge is doing a good job.”
Minimum wage for Albertans 18 years of age and older has been $15/hour since Oct. 1, 2018, while minimum wage for students under 18 has been $13/hour since June 26, 2019.
Alberta has the fifth-highest minimum wage in Canada for adults, behind Nunavut, Northwest Territories, Yukon and British Columbia.