Blog | August 31, 2013

By Collin Gallant on August 31, 2013. Medicine Hat NewsOnce again, a study has found that Medicine Hat has the highest percentage of low-wage earners in the province, but the authors say that new context pokes holes in age-old arguments about the lower cost of living in the Gas City.While Medicine Hat has cheaper utilities and property taxes, the living wage in the area calculated as the poverty line for a full-time wage earner working the entire year is $13 per hour.About 9,000 Hatters, or about one-quarter of the workforce, earn less than that, while 51 per cent of full-time workers aged 25 to 44 collect less than $15 per hour.“That ($15 threshold) meets basic needs and maintains a safe standard of living with a little left for saving,” said Alison Van Dyke, a local spokesperson for Public Interest Alberta, which commissioned the study. “It’s a moderate lifestyle, certainly not frivolous.”This is the third study released by PIA, a socially-minded interest group, but this year’s is coupled with a report entitled “Moving from Charity to Investment” commissioned by the local poverty reduction roundtable.“We always used to hear that argument that the living wage in Calgary, let’s say, is higher because the cost of living is higher,” said Van Dyke. “Yes, we have a lower cost of living but in spite of that, $13 is a living wage in Medicine Hat.”Factoring the local economic landscape, it states that local workers, and especially women are in danger of facing real financial hardship.In Medicine Hat, one third of all single parents live below the poverty line and 80 per cent of all single parents are women, the study states. Further, 57 per cent of low-wage earners are women and only 9 per cent of low-wage earners are younger than 20.See Single, Page A2According to the study, two local working parents need $13 per hour each or a single parent $19 to achieve a living wage.“That’s not thriving wage, it’s just living wage,” said Holly Stadnicki, executive director of the United way of Southeastern Alberta.“If a crisis was to hit the family, they’d have to decide between prescription medicine and food, let’s say, or rent and school supplies. They’re always on a shoestring.Stadnicki points to limited job opportunities and the need for variety of industry as possible causes of the problem.“We can’t force employers to pay higher wages but there can be societal pressure put on them,” said Van Dyke, adding that higher wages mean more money spent in the community.She said there are employers in Medicine Hat doing that already, and they should be celebrated.“There should be an expectation that people will be decent and treat their employees well.”Read the article at the Medicine Hat News.