To make ends meet, a nuclear family in the Okanagan needs to bring in an annual income of just under $70,000.
Or so says the Regional District of the Central Okanagan’s Living Wage report, which attempted to pin a dollar value on what it takes to lift a family of four above the poverty line.
“Each parent would need to earn $16.98 an hour to pay for necessities and support the healthy development of their children,” said Christene Walsh, noting her assessment hinges on the requirements and benefits specific to a two parent family with two children aged four and seven.
“It also allows them to participate in the social life of their community while allowing some funds to upgrade their training, skills and education.”
What they can’t do with that wage, however, is carry a mortgage, repay debts, or enjoy cable TV and the internet.
While this is the first time the Central Okanagan has been the subject of a living wage report, Walsh said it’s been a long time coming, especially when the affordability shortcomings of this part of the valley are figured in.
“People were asking me what is the living wage, and I didn’t know,” she said. “It’s likely time to put it in the record, can use it to raise awareness and start a dialogue about what’s needed.”
Discussions about wages aren’t entirely new to the Okanagan. The Central Okanagan Economic Commission’s Robert Fine said before the minimum wage was raised, its merits were often debated and, for the most part, B.C. isn’t in the worst shape.
The average wage across B.C. is $22 an hour, and locally most employers said they paid their employees well above bottom dollar, although whether many would be able to reach the nearly $17 living wage remains to be seen.
“The value in this study is about having a conversation,” said Fine.
“In terms of community, what kind of community do we want to be? But there’s a realistic element there’s a lot of small businesses that struggle.”
Around 66 per cent of local businesses are sole proprietorship, and for those that are in need of a larger staffing level, Fine said it’s difficult for them to provide more wages.