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Saskatchewan minimum wage due for increase to raise low-wage earners over poverty line: experts

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Is minimum wage enough to cover the cost of living in 2021 and beyond? It’s a question many people have asked as the global economy searches for traction coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Saskatchewan currently has the second-lowest minimum wage in Canada at $11.81. New Brunswick has the lowest at $11.75. Nunavut has the highest at $16.00.

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Saskatchewan’s minimum wage is indexed every year, subject to cabinet approval, states a release from the province to Global News. The indexation formula gives equal weight to the change in the Consumer Price Index and the Average Hourly Wage for Saskatchewan from the previous year. Since the formula was established in 2007, the minimum wage has increased 48 per cent, from $7.95 to $11.81.

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“The minimum wage is only one tool the province has to support low-wage earners. Programs and policies such as decreasing the personal income tax rate and increasing the Saskatchewan Low Income Tax Credit help low-wage earners have more disposable income.”

Saskatchewan’s indexation formula provides predictable and sustainable changes that will help keep our province strong, the province said, adding, every jurisdiction is different.

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Saskatchewan Federation of Labour president Lori Johb says this is simply isn’t enough to live on and a boost to the minimum wage would help greatly.

“Right now we need to talk about how we are struggling coming out of the pandemic and we need to do all we can to boost the economy especially in our smaller centres,” said Johb.

In centres such as Saskatoon and Regina, says Johb, minimum wage in the range of $15-17 dollars an hour would be a start. While other areas in the province would need a wage of $17 to $20 per hour to supplement lower-wage earners over the poverty line.

One expert said the present minimum wage leaves many people living below the poverty line, particularly families and single parents. A full-time worker, earning minimum wage would make just over $22,000 per year.

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University of Regina Faculty of Social Work Prof. Miguel Sanchez says the earnings for parents providing for a family combined would be around $4,000 below the poverty line. A single parent would be even worse.

“For a single mother with one child working minimum wage that would be $9,000 below the poverty line at the end of the year,” said Sanchez.

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Sanchez said the safeguards and programs put in place by the provincial government provide some help to the lower-earning working-class people.

“Fifteen per cent of children and families in Saskatchewan escape poverty because of these government transfers.”

However, Johb says the federation will continue to push for increases in wages for workers in the province.

“We will continue to push for a much better minimum wage,’ said Johb. “It’s a priority for us. We are not going to quit. Increases of cents to the dollar for each increase won’t cut it.”

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Johb adds over 30 per cent of minimum wage workers are between the ages of 35 to 65.

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She says an increase would be hugely beneficial for the local economy as well, as it’s the large multinational companies based outside the province such as Tim Hortons, McDonald’s, and Walmart who are paying a large portion of its workers below $15 per hour, not small businesses run by community-minded Saskatchewan citizens.

Johb told Global News over 96,000 workers in Saskatchewan earn less than $15 per hour which makes up 20 per cent of the workforce.

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