No one should have to choose between paying their electricity bill and ensuring there is dinner on the table for the next week. This, however, is the reality for many members of the Niagara community as they work day in and day out for minimum wage (currently $15.00 per hour) with little time or resources to make ends meet at home. A living wage -which we are increasingly seeing being offered in the Niagara Region- is a fair wage that employers voluntarily decide to pay their employees to ensure they are able to meet the basic living expenses and financially feel comfortable each week. Currently, the living wage in the Niagara Region was calculated by The Niagara Poverty Reduction Network and has increased within the past two years from $18.12 to $18.90.
The Reality of Minimum Wage
Minimum wage is simply not feasible for families such as a single mother with only one kid as the total expenses per year total around $42,966 and even while working 35 hours a week year-round, this family sadly will still run $15,667 short on their expense allowance. How should they decide which living category doesn’t matter as much as the others? Certainly, this single mother of one can’t decide between keeping the heat on in her house or putting her child in childcare.
While it is not a long-term fix for poverty, the YW offers programs and services that help women and families access affordable housing, skill leveling up, and more to make the cost of living more manageable for families living on the poverty line.
Is The Living Wage Even Livable Anymore?
A living wage is determined based on the wage’s ability
- to meet basic needs (i.e. housing, nutritious food, transportation);
- participate in the economic and social fabric of their community (i.e. recreational opportunities);
- purchase items that can help them escape marginal subsistence (i.e. household items)
These household resources do not account for any unexpected costs or extravagances outside the day-to-day expenses of living. These wages do not account for saving for child education funds, paying back credit card/ student loans, unexpected transportation issues, etc. The cost of living is becoming unbearable.
It Takes More Than Just a Living Wage
Although an increased living wage is necessary for a comfortable life in Niagara, it is not the sole contributor as to why we are seeing increased poverty rates in the past few years. Many aspects such as more affordable childcare and public transit options, housing options that are reasonably priced, and employee benefit programs are just a few contributions that would aid in supporting a more comfortable living for women and children experiencing poverty in the Niagara Region.
The YW advocates for positive working conditions to support people in our community, this includes supporting local small businesses that pay a living wage to their employees. One of our favourite businesses to support is Beechwood Doughnuts. Along with their livable wage, they have been donating proceeds to the YW through the sales of their classic cinnamon sugar doughnuts which, in return, allows the YW to continue our advocacy work fighting for a livable wage in the Niagara Region. Pick up your doughnuts from Beechwood Doughnuts today or become one of our donors to help join the fight!