Photo By: Michael Longmire from Unsplash

This week, the Niagara Poverty Reduction Network (NPRN) released their living wage calculation for 2021, which pegs the wage at $18.90 per hour.

The living wage is not the same as minimum wage, which is the legal requirement for all employers to pay. This figure represents a level of income that would allow a household to meet their basic needs and is calculated based on the actual costs of living in a specific community, assuming that adults work 35 hours per week. This calculation accounts for necessities such as food, shelter, clothing, transportation, and medical expenses. It also factors in costs such as communication, continuing education, and recreational expenses that allow for regular participation in society.

On a related note, this week the government of Ontario announced their plan to raise the minimum wage from $14.35 to $15 per hour starting January 1, 2022. Along with the general rate increase, the minimum wage for liquor servers will increase from $12.55 to match the general provincial rate of $15. 

The minimum wage decision was met with criticism from many different stakeholders. One of them being business owners who are still struggling to recover from the impacts of COVID-19. Both the Ontario Chamber of Commerce and the Canadian Federation of Independent Business have echoed these concerns, citing that this change is coming at the worst possible time.

It’s also important to note that upon their election in 2018, the Ontario PC’s had actually halted the planned minimum wage increase to $15 put in place by the Liberal government of Kathleen Wynne. This change in sentiment has left many wondering whether the proposed increase has to do with the upcoming provincial election which will take place this summer.

While this increase in the minimum wage is a step towards the living wage, living wages in cities like London and Toronto have been calculated between $16.20 and $22 per hour. 

A common misconception among policymakers is that living wage calculations are tailored for those seeking a luxurious lifestyle. However, the 2021 rate of $18.90 only accounts for basic necessities and social spending that would allow a household to remain active in their community. The minimum wage at $15 an hour does not provide this same living standard.

For a full breakdown of the living wage calculation, visit the NPRN website.