Living wage on Salt Spring highest in area

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In order for a family of four to make a comfortable living on Salt Spring Island, both adults need to be making at least $20.95 per hour.

That’s the conclusion of a living wage report just released by the Salt Spring Island Foundation. The report outlines the lowest wage that both adults in a family of four need to earn in order to make ends meet. The wage is higher than that of both Metro Vancouver and Victoria, at $20.91 and $20.50 respectively. Comparatively, Cowichan and the Comox Valley have lower living wages, at $19.05 and $16.59 each.

Annual family income needs to be $72,503.19, according to the report

The wage is calculated for a Salt Spring Island family of four with both parents working 35 hours per week and two children ages 4 and 7. It is the amount necessary to support children, pay for necessities like shelter and to escape financial hardship.

“Salt Spring Island residents — particularly those with young families — may face cost of living challenges due to the rural nature and location of the island, the dependence of the island on tourism, and the need to work two or more part-time jobs to make ends meet,” a foundation press release reads.

The report highlights the challenges that Salt Spring families face trying to earn a living wage. It says that families often need to work two or more part-time jobs and are often dependent on tourism to make an income. Monthly expenses are divided into 10 categories, with shelter, childcare and food making up the largest expenses. The average family needs to spend over $2,000 on shelter alone, according to the report.

The report was compiled based on data from the 2017 Salt Spring Island VitalSigns report, which looked at the community in 12 areas of interest. Living on an island also adds expenses that would not be otherwise considered, like ferry and medical costs. The report also listed food as being 10 per cent more expensive on Salt Spring, but due to a methodology issue was not able to factor that into calculations.

“It adds important information to help islanders become more aware of the economic challenges faced by local families and allows us to see where we stand in relation to other B.C. communities,” said foundation board chair Kees Ruurs in a press release. 

A living wage is different from the minimum wage. In B.C., the minimum wage is the lowest legal wage that a business is allowed to pay its employees. The minimum wage was raised to $12.65 per hour this month. This is still $8.30 less than the living wage outlined by the report.

One of the main concerns voiced in the VitalSigns report was the lack of affordable housing on the island. A single person making minimum wage would be paying almost 60 per cent of his or her income on shelter, according to the report.

The wage was calculated using a national standard calculation. It was developed by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and includes tax benefits, CPP payments and other similar government transfers and deductions.

A summary of the report will be sent to islanders and copies of the full text are available at the Salt Spring Island Foundation website.

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