Blog | September 14, 2015

By Bill Mah, Edmonton JournalBoosting Alberta’s minimum wage will benefit the provincial economy, says Public Interest Alberta.The social-justice advocacy group released new Statistics Canada data on Friday that it says shows low-wage earners are more prevalent in Alberta’s labour force than widely believed, with 362,400 workers, or 18.9 per cent, earning $15 an hour or less.Of that number, 123,700 low-wage earners live in the Edmonton area and 122,100 live in the Calgary area.Of that number, 123,700 low-wage earners live in the Edmonton area and 122,100 live in the Calgary area.The province boosts its minimum wage on Oct. 1 to $11.20, up from $10.20. It’s part of the government’s plan to raise the wage to $15 by 2018.A total of 117,500 Albertans earned less than $11.20 per hour in June 2014, said Public Interest Alberta.The statistics also dispel the notion that most low-wage earners are teenagers, the group said.Of all low-wage workers in Alberta, 79 per cent are at least 20 years old, 23.8 per cent are 45 years or older and 62.7 per cent of workers making less than $11.20 per hour are women, the statistics showed.“This data shows that the increase will put more money into the pockets of hundreds of thousands of Albertans who are just scraping by right now,” said Joel French, director of communications and campaigns for Public Interest Alberta.“That will allow them to put more food on the table for their families and to meet their basic necessities. As those Albertans spend their additional earnings, that will also put more money into the economy when it needs it the most.”The minimum-wage increase taking effect in October means about $160 per month for every person working full-time on minimum wage, the group said.But the Canadian Federation of Independent Business said Public Interest Alberta’s conclusions that hiking the minimum wage will help the economy are flawed.“It assumes that those people in the jobs are going to continue to be working the number of hours they currently are,” said Amber Ruddy, CFIB’s director of provincial affairs for Alberta.“It assumes they’ll even have a job.”Small business owners are feeling heightened wage pressure and increasing the minimum wage will reduce employee hours or staffing levels, she said.“If the government is really concerned with entry-level employees, they should focus on ways to directly help like targeted tax credits and training opportunities.”bmah@edmontonjournal.comTwitter.com/mahspace© Copyright (c) The Edmonton JournalRead the article on the Edmonton Journal's website

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