This article was originally published in the Lethbridge Herald
By Nick Kuhl
Lethbridge is second only to Medicine Hat when it comes to the number of low-wage earners in the province.People working full time shouldn’t be living in poverty, but it’s happening in major centres around the province, says the executive director for Public Interest Alberta (PIA).
Bill Moore-Kilgannon said there are 9,800 employed city residents who earn less than $15 per hour, which is equal to 28.8 per cent of the city’s full-time workforce of 34,700.The provincial number, meanwhile, shows that 20.5 per cent of all Alberta workers, roughly 383,900 people, make $15 or less.
In Lethbridge, there are also 11,500 people earning less than $16 per hour, while another 1,700 made between $9.95 and $10.20, the province’s former and current minimum wage, when the data was compiled.“The percentage of low-wage workers in Lethbridge is very high compared to the rest of the province,” said Moore-Kilgannon, referring to new Statistics Canada data released by PIA on Labour Day Monday.
“Everybody should be concerned about this because it does impact on the cohesiveness of your communities and the strength of the economy.”Women are the majority of low-wage workers in Lethbridge, as about 58 per cent of full-time workers, about 5,700 women, make less than $16/hour.The 25-cent minimum wage increase also works out to only $37 a month for someone working full-time hours. For Lethbridge, that represents 1,700 people.
“The minimum wage is definitely too low,” Moore-Kilgannon said. “Most Albertans would agree that someone who’s working full time should not be living in poverty. First and foremost.”The data also studied Edmonton, Calgary, Red Deer, Grande Prairie/Peace River Region and Wood Buffalo/Cold Lake Region.