Blog | November 14, 2011

By Sara Parkin, The MelioristSitting at $9.40, Alberta’s minimum wage is currently among the lowest in Canada. On Nov. 1, British Columbia raised its minimum wage to $9.50, an increase of 75 cents, nudging Alberta into a lower position in terms of national numbers. The minimum wage for liquor servers in the province is even lower, set at $9.05.Statistics provided by the government of Alberta from April 2010 to March 2011 revealed that people from age 15 to 29 make up close to 60 per cent of minimum wage earners in the province; included in this age group is a great deal of post-secondary students. According to statistics, the number of people between the ages of 20 to 24 who are earning minimum wage has been on the rise in recent years. 44.2 per cent of minimum wage earners either have some post-secondary education or have already earned a degree, diploma or certificate. People with university degrees make up 13.9 per cent of people earning minimum wage. With the cost of living also on the rise, as well as the cost of education, post-secondary students are among those people who are most negatively affected by a low minimum wage; however, a wide range of people earn minimum wage in Alberta. People of all ages, levels of education, marital status, and gender are included in the broad spectrum of minimum wage earners in this province.While both genders are affected by the minimum wage in Alberta, the statistics reveal that they are not affected equally. From April 2010 to March 2011, women comprised 64.6 per cent of the province’s minimum wage earners. This number was up from 58.2 per cent from April 2009 to March 2010.Included in the Alberta Minimum Wage Profile is a summary profile of a minimum wage earner. According to the government of Alberta, the most common minimum wage earner from April 2010 to March 2011 was as follows.

  • 15 to 19 years old
  • employed full-time in a permanent position
  • non-union employee
  • one to five years job experience
  • in accommodation or food services industry or in sales and services occupations
  • some high school education
  • female
Non-union employees make up 95.1 per cent of minimum wage earners in the province, according to the same profile by the Alberta government.With so many people being affected by Alberta’s low minimum wage, citizens and organizations alike have taken notice. Public Interest Alberta (PIA) has begun a campaign to spread awareness about the province’s minimum wage and to advocate for a living wage for all Albertans.According to PIA, $12/hour is just below the poverty line for a person who is working full time, meaning a living wage would be much higher than that for someone with children. 17.8 per cent of people in Lethbridge are earning less than $12 an hour.In order to spread awareness, local advocates of a living wage took to the streets on Nov. 1 to distribute $9.40 bills. Their message was that Alberta’s minimum wage, now among the lowest in the country, is too low to be considered a living wage. PIA is encouraging people to include the bills while tipping servers, to encourage them to speak up and take action against the low minimum wage. Many servers do not know that they are earning less than minimum wage. The bills that PIA is distributing feature the face of former Employment Minister Thomas Lukaszuk who introduced the controversial two-tier minimum wage that the province currently employs. Advocates of a living wage across the province have been distributing the bills as part of the campaign.In the midst of PIA’s campaign, Premier Alison Redford has expressed her intentions to re-examine Alberta’s $9.40 minimum wage, concerned by the province’s distinction of having one of the lowest minimum wages in the country. While she may be looking to raise the minimum wage, Redford was an advocate of the two-tier system that has alcohol servers making $9.05 despite the minimum wage being $9.40.The two-tier system is controversial in Alberta because the province lacks any regulations on gratuities. Businesses are able to take and redistribute servers’ tips, often in order to tip out back-of-house staff. With many servers not making exorbitant tips, the lower minimum wage becomes a point of contention.With the minimum wage at the rate it is currently, many people are struggling to make ends meet despite working long hours, often at multiple jobs. Only time will tell whether Premier Redford will come through on her promise and address the low minimum wage in Alberta.Minimum wage by provinceAlberta
$9.05 for liquor serversBritish Columbia
$12.60 for people working in constructionNew Brunswick
$9.50Newfoundland and Labrador
$10.00Northwest Territories
$10.00Nova Scotia
$9.50 for inexperienced workersNunavut
$9.60 for students under 18
$8.90 for liquor servers
$11.28 for homeworkersPrince Edward Island
$8.35 for workers who receive gratuitiesSaskatchewan
$9.00By Sara Parkin, The Meliorist This article was published in the Meliorist on November 14, 2011. Read the full article on the Meliorist website.