Media releases | September 01, 2014

Tiny minimum wage increase will help very few

Underpaid graphicEDMONTON—Public Interest Alberta released new Statistics Canada data on Labour Day, September 1, 2014, that show 383,900 (20.5% of all employed workers) earn less than $15/hour.

“The fact that so many Albertans are struggling to make ends meet despite having a job has a negative impact on families, our communities and the economy,” said Bill Moore-Kilgannon, Executive Director of Public Interest Alberta. “The new Premier is certainly going to have to address the question of the working poor if he plans to achieve the Progressive Conservative Party election promise to eliminate child poverty by 2017.”

A total of 42,200 people earned between $9.95 and $10.20 in June 2014. The 25 cent minimum wage increase works out to only $37/month for someone working full time hours, while most cities in Alberta have rent increases at least twice this amount.

The statistics also dispel the myth that all low-wage workers are teenagers. 77% of all low-wage workers in Alberta are over the age of 20; 78,500 are between 20 – 24 years old (20.4%), 135,100 are between 25 – 44 years old (35.2%) and 82,100 are over the age of 45 (21.4%).

“Social workers see the impacts every day of people struggling to support their families on low-wages and know that there are significant impacts on the health of our communities and people if there is increase disparity between rich and poor,” said Lori Sigurdson, Manager of Professional Affairs at the Alberta College of Social Workers and Chairperson of Public Interest Alberta’s Human Services and Poverty Task Force. “The fact that we continue to see that the majority of low-wage workers are women (234,400 – 61%) shows that we must also address the systemic policies that are biased against women.”

In Edmonton there are 123,700 (19.5%) low-wage workers, and in Calgary there are 136,400 (20.6%).

“In order to tackle the root problems, we must work together to develop an anti-poverty strategy for the city, for the province and for the country which includes the move towards a liveable wage,” said Bruce Fafard, President, Edmonton & District Labour Council. “The Labour Day BBQ is one way labour unions support the unemployed and working poor who are rarely covered in the media despite being such a large percentage of the population.“

“There is a stark difference between Alberta's minimum wage and Calgary’s living wage of $17.29 per hour required for Calgarians to achieve a basic level of economic security in our city,” said Franco Savoia, Executive Director of Vibrant Communities Calgary. “It is unacceptable in a city of such riches that so many Calgarians earn wages that keeps them struggling in poverty.”The fact sheets with the number of low-wage workers in the seven major Alberta cities: Edmonton, Calgary, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, Red Deer, Grande Prairie/Peace River Region and Wood Buffalo/Cold Lake Region, are posted on the  Public Interest Alberta’s Human Services & Poverty Task Force's web page.-30-