By Alejandra Pulido-Guzman - Lethbridge Herald on November 9, 2023.
The United Way Lethbridge and South Western Alberta, in collaboration with the Alberta Living Wage Network, has released the new hourly living wage for Lethbridge.
The living wage is defined as the hourly wage a worker needs to earn to cover their basic expenses and have a modest standard of living once government transfers have been added and taxes have been subtracted.
The calculation is based on the income needs of three household types: a two-parent family with two young children; a lone-parent family with one child; and a single individual.
It assumes that each adult is working full-time hours and includes savings for unexpected costs, continuing education, child care, and a small amount which allows people to participate in the community.
This year the living wage for Lethbridge has been calculated to be $20.60 per hour. This is an increase of 30 cents compared to last year’s living wage.
When compared to the provincially set minimum wage of $15 per hour, there is a discrepancy of $5.60 which is felt by many, but especially by single adults living alone who do not receive the same benefits as those with children.
Executive director of United Way Lethbridge, Jaci Zalesak spoke to reporters Wednesday and said families with children receive benefits such as childcare subsidy and dental care subsidies that offset the price of living, compared to single individuals living alone.
“The government has implemented various subsidies,which is about $3,000 to $4,000 for families and that has made a significant impact in helping us reduce the cost of living for families, but for single individuals there are fewer, and they are mostly temporary at this point,” said Zalesak.
She said they are advocating for policy changes which will include those living alone to be able to benefit.
Sharon Yanicki, a spokesperson from the Social Health Equity Network of Lethbridge and Areas (SHENLA), told media offering a living wage in Lethbridge helps members of the community live with dignity.
“If we have businesses in the city that provide a living wage, that assures their employees have enough food to eat, they can stay sheltered, they can participate in community life, their children have enough for clothing and being able to participate in some activity after school, and it makes a huge difference in the health and well-being of families and individuals,” said Yanicki.
In a release from United Way Lethbridge, Ryan Lacanilao, Coordinator of Alberta Living Wage Network says that despite increasing costs on just about everything – particularly shelter – they noticed the government affordability measures and the Canada Dental Benefit have helped families, but more needs to be done.
“What’s missing in Alberta is any real action on increasing minimum wage despite every single other province making increases in 2023.”
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