Thriving, not just Surviving: Living Wage at Reeve
Paying a living wage is more than just compensating employees for basic living expenses; it helps foster economic growth and worker quality of life, reduces exploitation, and can even improve employee productivity. In May 2023, Reeve Consulting received our Living Wage for Families BC certification and formally committed to paying all our employees and contractors at or above the living wage for Metro Vancouver.
What is the Difference Between Minimum Wage, Living Wage and Fair Wage?
While these three terms are interrelated and often used synonymously, they are not the same:
- Minimum wage refers to the legal minimum rate employers must pay in a particular region. The Canadian federal minimum wage is $16.65 per hour1.
- Living wage refers to the hourly wage a worker needs to earn to be able to cover all basic living expenses (i.e., food, clothing, shelter, transportation, childcare, medical expenses). The living wage level is calculated using regional cost of living data like rent, groceries, taxes, and transportation, and also takes into consideration family sizes and frequency of expenses.
- Fair wage refers to a wage level that is just and reasonable for the specific type of work performed by an individual. It considers factors relating to the industry, job, and labour market and is predominantly used in the construction sector for certain trade roles. Accordingly, fair wage rates are typically well above the living wage rates.
A Brief History of Living Wages
Living wage is not a new concept: it started in the industrial revolution following concerns that factory workers were not being compensated fairly. Minimum wages were adopted starting in the early 1900s, with the hope that these wages would be able to cover all basic living needs. At that time, minimum and living wages were closely associated. Unfortunately, in more recent years, the increase in minimum wages has not kept up with the rapidly growing cost of living across Canadian provinces, resulting in a significant gap between the minimum and living wage earnings.
Living Wage for Families BC established their recognition process for Living Wage employers in 2010, and some of the first organizations to sign on were the City of New Westminster and Vanity Credit Union2.
Living wages vary by region. In BC, the average living wage is approximately $23 per hour3, while the minimum wage is $16.75 per hour. This leaves full time minimum wage earners with $12,000 less annual income than full time living wage earners. Not earning sufficient income results in a myriad of negative outcomes for the individual and the wider community. Concerns like reduced quality of life, financial stress, basic needs insecurity and limited access to healthcare are among the more potent consequences of inadequate pay.
Rising Costs of Living in Canada
The rising interest rates along with increasing cost of groceries and other necessities means that the cost of living has increased in Canada, and consequently, the living wage. In 2022, the living wage in Metro Vancouver increased by 17.3%4, requiring Living Wage Employers to increase their employees’ compensation.
A big player in the living wage movement in BC, the City of Vancouver, re-evaluated their commitment to pay living wage in January 2023, and decided that it will calculate their minimum compensation based on a 5-year rolling average of the living wage5. The City joined Living Wage for Families BC in 2017, and at the time was the largest living wage employer in the province.
Despite the City of Vancouver’s decision, many businesses have still committed to the newest Metro Vancouver living wage. Across BC, there are over 350 employers, impacting over 30,000 direct staff and countless contractors. Among the newest members: Reeve Consulting.
Reeve promotes a four-pillar model of sustainable procurement and it’s important we walk the talk. Social and ethical are two key pillars of sustainable procurement: meaning we want to promote human rights, health, safety, and wellbeing in our own supply chain. Paying a living wage ensures that our employees and contractors are not being exploited or paid unfairly, reduces financial stress, and promotes economic wellbeing and equity in our community.
To learn more about Living wages in BC, check out the Living Wage for Families BC website. Contact use at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more about how you can have a ripple effect in your supply chain by becoming a Living Wage Employer.