Blog | August 31, 2013

from CHAT TVWhen retail chain Hot Gossip opened its Medicine Hat store in 1992, the minimum wage in Alberta was around $5 an hour. Times have changed.“For full-time keyholders (the wage) is from about $10 to $12 an hour,” said Hot Gossip manager Ashley Rauchwarter.But that may not be enough. Alberta’s minimum wage is set to rise on September 1 to $9.95 an hour, however a new study finds that’s still well below what’s considered a “living wage” in the province.According to Public Interest Alberta, 21 per cent of workers in the province make less than $15 an hour. In Medicine Hat that number is even higher, at 35 per cent. Even after adjusting the living wage to $13 an hour to account for the Gas City’s lower cost of living, 9,000 of Medicine Hat’s 34,000-strong workforce are considered working poor. And there are some surprising demographic trends behind the numbers.“We’re not just talking about college students, young people,” said Alison Van Dyke, community mobilizer for Public Interest Alberta. “Most of these people are in their prime earning years — 51 per cent are between the ages of 25 and 44.”The study also found 57 per cent of the city’s low-wage earners are women.Of the seven Alberta cities included in the study, it’s the third straight year the Hat has taken top spot. That has to change, say those who deal with the consequences of those numbers.“It’s not enough for the two-parent family to be making just $13 an hour,” said United Way Southeast Alberta executive director Holly Stadnicki. “That’s $26 an hour coming into the household to raise two children. They’re surviving, but they’re not really thriving and giving back to their community in the way that they could be.”Stadnicki said the city has done what it can to make life as affordable, keeping utility rtes and property taxes as low as possible. But she added much of the solution to Medicine Hat’s growing wage gap lies with those who sign the paycheques.“I would like to see more businesses, more industry come to Medicine Hat that can offer a different assortment of jobs and a different assortment of pay,” she said.Van Dyke thinks employers will pay higher wages if they look more closely at the ramifications.“They will realize that it benefits them as well, through lower staff turnover and increased spending within the local economy,” she said. “People who are earning more money are able to spend more.”For now however, low-wage earners will have to make do with the modest wage increase that takes effect this weekend.Read the article at Chat TV's website.