Kelowna is known for many things, including beautiful beaches, a vast lake and plenty of vineyards and orchards.
The Central Okanagan city is also known as a pricey place to live and according to a report released Thursday by the Canadian Centre for Policy, the hourly wage needed for local workers to make ends meet has gone way up.
“The living wage is the hourly rate that each of two parents working full time need to earn in order to support a family of four in a specific community,” said Iglika Ivanova, senior economist with Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.
In Kelowna, that hourly living wage jumped by 23.7 per cent to $22.88 this year, from $18.49 in 2021.
That is far above B.C.’s minimum wage of $15.65 and is one of the highest increases in all of B.C.
The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives said the cost of groceries and Kelowna’s pricey rental market are driving the major increase.
“Kelowna is the third most expensive rental market in the province, just a little cheaper than Metro Vancouver and Greater Victoria,” Ivanova told Global News.
Part of the reason for the increases in the living wage across all 22 communities that were included in the 2022 report was that the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives understated the cost of living last year.
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“For example, last year in Kelowna the number was $1,600 for a three-bedroom unit and most people would know that is way too low so we did make an adjustment,” Ivanova said.
Still the increases are significant across the board.
Golden topped the list with a 31 per cent hike in living wage, which now sits at $25.56. In Metro Vancouver, the living wage went up 17.3 per cent to $24.08 and in Victoria it spiked by 19 per cent to $24.29.
At the Central Okanagan Food bank, the increase is not all that surprising. The organization says it has served an unprecedented number of people this year, many of them employed.
“From our new client registrations, 66 per cent are low wage earners,” said Ray Gruza, communications coordinator with the Central Okanagan Food Bank. “So these are people who are working entry-level jobs, minimum-wage jobs, and we are kind of seeing that they just can’t afford to make ends meet. A lot of their wages are going towards rent.”
While it’s not known what the coming months will bring, Ivanova said government investments into things like child care and the national dental care program may slow the pace at which the living wage is rising.
“I would expect kind of a more moderate increase or smaller increase because the government investments coming in for moderate income families are substantial,” Ivanova said.
Visit the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives website for more information. The rates for living wage and percentage increase in other communities reviewed in 2021 include:
Columbia Valley $21.85–27.18%
Comox Valley $20.26–23.24%
Cowichan Valley $23.53 –3.00%
Grand Forks $20.05–16.50%
Fraser Valley $18.98–13.31%