Blog | April 10, 2012

By Stacey Lee, Medicine Hat NewsA group of Hatters sitting on a poverty reduction committee are about to start digging into the causes and potential cures of local destitution.The poverty reduction group is responding to a report issued by Action to End Poverty in Alberta last February, and statistics that say Medicine Hat has the highest number of low-wage earners in the province.Richard Gregory, committee member and social work instructor at Medicine Hat College, says the groups investigation is two-fold."We are looking at how poverty impacts the people of Medicine Hat…who is impacted and how. Looking beyond the economic barriers that we know people in poverty have we are also looking at the social aspects…what it means for people who are living in poverty."Once those factors have been determined the inquiry will shift to focus on local poverty extermination."We look at what living wages look like in Medicine Hat, in terms of what we need to do in order to help people reach the living wage…the reduction of poverty."He says living wages are considered to be the minimum amount of earnings sufficient to provide the necessities and comforts associated with an acceptable standard of living. The reasons for low standards of living vary with each community, but Gregory says there is at least one clear reason for the Gas City's high number of low income households."We tend to be (considered) a service industry (city) so…there is certainly a lot of low wage earners in that aspect. People are having to work tow or three different jobs to make sure that they can pay their rent and buy groceries…heaven-for-bid that along the way they have to get a prescription or something."Public Interest Alberta says that, here in Medicine Hat where the population has grown to about 60,000, there are 7,200 people earning less than $12 / hr. Additionally, 4,100 of those people earn less than $10 / hr. The most worrisome statistic details that jut over 65 per cent of those low-wage earners are female."If you look at…a woman who might invest two years into an early childhood education program, and gets a job in a daycare, but makes slightly above the minimum wage. That is (compared) to her male counterpart who will do a two year program in mechanics, and makes a very good wage from that."The committee has raised enough money to hire a researcher to help with the process, and is now entertaining bids from firms with the ability to get the statistics in order by or around years end.Public Interest Alberta also says that Alberta's overall wage was $24.84 / hr in 2011, compared to $23.80 in 2009. In Medicine Hat and Lethbridge the average hourly wage is listed as $20.36.Gregory says the service industry sectors wages are much lower, likely closer to minimum wage. The province's mandated minimum wage is currently $9.40/hr.By Stacey Lee, Medicine Hat News
slee@medicinehatnews.comThis article was published in the Medicine Hat News on April 10, 2012. Read the full article on the Medicine Hat website.