With 119,000 impoverished children as of 2010, B.C. has the second highest rate of child poverty in Canada. However, some people are presenting a possible solution at Langara College.
The final lecture of Low Wages, Living Wages and Child Poverty, a course with Michael McCarthy Flynn of the Living Wage for Families campaign is being held in the school on March 5.
The course advocates replacing the current minimum wage with a “living wage [which] basically calculates what it costs for a family to live in a set geographical location within the province,” Flynn said.
The living wage is determined by examining how much basic amenities such as groceries, transportation and utilities cost in an area, and figuring out how much a worker must be paid in order to afford those basic necessities.
Because B.C.’s minimum wage is far below a living wage, strain is put on families, who consequently have trouble providing for their children, Flynn said.
Compensation is determined by well-organized business and financial interests, said Flynn. As a result, minimum pay rates don’t cut it.
Low wage workers have trouble fighting this problem because they’re too busy trying to survive, he said.
Flynn said these employees are: “divided, they are disparate, and they’re often the most excluded members of society; they’re immigrants, they’re First Nations, they’re women and they’re working two or three jobs; they’re barely surviving.”
The campaign has made progress in B.C.
New Westminster has adopted the living wage for all city employees, including contracted workers. The same is true for Vancity credit union, software company SAP, and Simon Fraser University.
But there’s still room for improvement.
The living wage for metro Vancouver, which is home to 80,000 of B.C.’s 119,000 poor children, is $19.14 — $8.89 higher than B.C.’s current minimum wage.
The history of the movement
The Living Wage for Families Campaign is hosted by First Call: BC Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition.
First Call: BC Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition, comprised of over 90 local and regional organizations, established the Living Wage for Families Campaign in 2008.
When asked if the Campaign has been successful to date, Flynn said:
“Yes and no — I think from where we started nobody was talking about living wages . . . now it’s part of the public dialogue . . . that’s the first step, to get it out there.”
Reported by Patrick Colvin