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Living wage jumps 20% in Greater Victoria, surpassing Vancouver

Expenses are rising with food prices seeing the most dramatic increase

By Jolene Rudisuela
November 17, 2022
Latest News
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Living wage jumps 20% in Greater Victoria, surpassing Vancouver

Expenses are rising with food prices seeing the most dramatic increase

Shoppers browse the grocery aisles at Uptown Walmart in October. The cost of food for a family of four in Greater Victoria has increased by 25.7%, according to the latest living wage report by the Community Social Planning Council. Photo: Jolene Rudisuela / Capital Daily
Shoppers browse the grocery aisles at Uptown Walmart in October. The cost of food for a family of four in Greater Victoria has increased by 25.7%, according to the latest living wage report by the Community Social Planning Council. Photo: Jolene Rudisuela / Capital Daily
Latest News
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Living wage jumps 20% in Greater Victoria, surpassing Vancouver

Expenses are rising with food prices seeing the most dramatic increase

By Jolene Rudisuela
November 17, 2022
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Living wage jumps 20% in Greater Victoria, surpassing Vancouver
Shoppers browse the grocery aisles at Uptown Walmart in October. The cost of food for a family of four in Greater Victoria has increased by 25.7%, according to the latest living wage report by the Community Social Planning Council. Photo: Jolene Rudisuela / Capital Daily

The hourly pay necessary for two people to support themselves and two children in Greater Victoria has jumped up to $24.29 this year—a 20% increase from the $20.46-per-hour living wage in 2021.

The living wage is calculated each year by the Community Social Planning Council of Greater Victoria based on the costs of essentials like food, housing, transportation, and child care. The number represents what two working parents of two young children must each earn to meet the family’s basic needs.

The cost of living is rising across the province, but Greater Victoria has been affected more than most, especially when it comes to high food prices. For the first time ever, this jump puts Victoria’s living wage above Vancouver. The only municipality higher than Victoria this year was Golden.

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Community Social Planning Council executive director Diana Gibson says she knew the living wage would be up this year, but she didn’t expect the change to be so dramatic—and so much higher than inflation.

Food prices saw the biggest jump, up 25.7% from the year before. Other household expenses—including toiletries, personal care items, furniture, school fees, and recreation and entertainment—jumped by 22%. 

“We do know that there are supply chain issues and a bit of a premium for living on the Island,” Gibson said. “So, that’s been causing food costs to be even higher here than other areas.”

As prices continue to go up, food banks are seeing increasing demand and fewer donations. Across Canada, the HungerCount report showed visits to food banks have risen by 15% in the past year. Locally, demand for the Goldstream Food Bank has doubled, the Sooke News Mirror reported. And the Mustard Seed’s daily lineups for food hampers are continuously growing, according to CHEK

Currently, the minimum wage in BC is $15.65 per hour. Gibson says this report shows that the minimum wage is far below what is needed, particularly for a family with children. Many Victoria families are working for minimum wage or slightly more. In 2019, 14% of children in Greater Victoria were living in poverty, according to the 2021 BC Child Poverty Report Card.

“When the pandemic started, we saw so many households served by the schools and we realized that one of the biggest functions the schools were serving was feeding low income families,” Gibson said. “The living wage is a threshold that says… how can we ensure our families in this region are living with a decent income and kids aren’t living in poverty.”

Governments need to step in, Gibson said

The only expense to decrease (by 0.16%) was child care. Gibson says this is proof that provincially subsidized child care is having an effect. 

“The provincial government has been investing in child-care programs and services to address affordability,” Gibson said. “We can see where the government has been addressing affordability successfully and it helps us to see where there might be other areas where we can ask the government to help.”

But child care is still the second-highest annual expense ($16,438) for a family of four earning a living wage, making up about 18% of their annual expenses. According to Statistics Canada, the average amount Canadian couples with children spent on child care in 2020 was between 4 to 5% of their annual income depending on the age of their kids. 

The highest annual expense for families making a living wage is shelter and telecommunications at $30,682. Within the past year, the median monthly rent has increased $278 for a three-bedroom apartment or townhouse, according to the living wage report. Gibson would like to see the government step up to make housing more affordable. 

“The government has been making inroads on investing in more affordable housing and in income subsidies for households, but they’re a bit of a patchwork right now. And it’s obviously not enough because the living wage is still ending up landing on employers to breach the gap there on affordability.”

She says employers have been struggling with pandemic recovery, labour shortages, and supply chain issues. Paying a living wage in Victoria is already a challenge for many.

More than 30 employers in Greater Victoria have been certified as Living Wage Employers by the council for offering wages exceeding last year’s $20.46-per-hour benchmark. But Gibson says not all of those employers will be able to keep up with this year’s 20% jump. 

Calen McNeil, owner of Big Wheel Burger, said in a statement that the business has been working towards being a living wage employer: “We were getting close to that target wage but this moves the finish line a lot farther away for us and any employer in a similar position,” he said.

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