The Kamloops living wage — an hourly earning with which a household can meet basic needs — has increased by 3.8 per cent to $17.95 in the past year, according to figures released Tuesday.
In an update based on a model used in other B.C. centres, the Changing Face of Poverty committee calculates that in a family of four with two working parents, each parent would have to earn a minimum of $17.95 an hour.
The figure is primarily a measure of the cost of living in Kamloops relative to other B.C. cities. Similar calculations have been made in Kelowna, Victoria and Williams Lake.
“We’re looking at it as a tool for understanding affordability,” said Tangie Genshorek, director of the Kamloops Homelessness Action Plan, which is part of the committee. “We’re not looking for increased wages, we’re just looking at where we are in Kamloops.”
The figure represents a wage required once government transfers, such as the Universal Child Care Benefit, have been added to a family’s income and deductions (income taxes, employment insurance) have been subtracted.
In the four-member family model, both parents work 35 hours a week at the living wage. The family owns one car and one bus pass.
The most significant factor in the cost calculation for a family of four is child care expenses, said Jeff Hicks, who used methodology developed by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, First Call B.C. and the Social Planning Council of Victoria to come up with the Kamloops figures.
“Single-child families receive a lot more government support via transfers,” he said.
The living wage here is slightly lower than those for Vancouver, where it rose to $19.60 from $18.81 over the past year.
“I think most people would expect it to be lower here,” Hicks said. “I would expect the big difference is shelter costs.”
The 65-cent increase since 2011 includes a 2.3 per cent increase represented by the provincial inflation rate. There were also methodology changes to education and non-MSP health-care expenses that further boosted the calculation..
Hicks pointed out that the living wage index shouldn’t be confused with the official poverty line.
“I think what this really shows is not what’s needed to get a family out of poverty, but what’s needed to get to a very modest lifestyle.”
With that wage, families would be free of severe financial stress and a basic level of economic security.
“But it is also a conservative, bare bones budget without the extras many of us take for granted,” the report states. The wage excludes such cost factors as savings for home ownership and children’s education, or paying off student debt.
While many service-sector employers couldn’t match the living wage, the idea is to encourage alternative supports, such as employee child care or more leniency with sick days, Hicks noted.
Aside from the City of New Westminster, a number of other organizations have adopted llving wages for their employees. The 2012 Summer Olympics are the first living-wage Olympic Games, Hicks said.
For more background on the calculation, visit kamloopshap.ca/LivingWage2012/.