New Living Wage for Families Campaign Fact Sheets Now Available
“In 2006 First Call: BC Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition began research on potential community support for living-wage standards in BC, an initiative prompted by Campaign 2000’s two-year national project: Addressing the Falling Fortunes of Young Children and Their Families. To identify living wage criteria and feasibility points, outreach workshops were first conducted with low-income families in Metro Vancouver. A multi-stakeholder Living Wage Round Table was then initiated and facilitated by First Call, with representation from parent, community, business, union and faith-based organizations. The goal: to share perspectives on how best to establish living wage standards and garner support in promoting a living wage for the Metro Vancouver area. Based on this research, First Call concluded that a broad-based living wage campaign would have wide appeal and could be a key strategy in addressing the issue of child poverty in the province. In spring 2007, First Call then co-sponsored a research project with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) to develop principles, and a methodology, for calculating living-wage base lines for Vancouver and Victoria. This joint research group included representatives from UBC’s Sociology Department and Human Early Learning Partnership (HELP), independent social policy consultants, the Victoria Social Planning Council, the Lower Mainland’s United Way and B.C.’s Hospital Employees Union.
Findings were reviewed by First Call’s Living Wage Round Table, low-income parents and a Vancity-organized employer focus group, and in late September 2008, First Call and the CCPA released their research report: Working for a Living Wage. Focused on Greater Vancouver and Victoria, this report outlined the rationale and principles behind regional living-wage standards, the significant benefits for both employees and employers and key successes noted by jurisdictions throughout the UK and U.S. where living wage standards are in place. In fall 2008, on the heels of Working for a Living Wage’s release, First Call then established a Living Wage Advisory Committee to oversee Living Wage campaign strategy, and in 2009 funds were raised for a campaign organizer.”
Since that time, the Living Wage Campaign has been working steadily to raise awareness of child and family poverty in BC and to work towards implementing a Living Wage in BC. The Living Wage Campaign has recently released four new fact sheets. Access them here to get up-to-date information to support your programs.
This fact sheet addresses the links between poverty and compromised health. “In general, the less someone is paid the poorer their health is across a number of physical and psychological measures. In addition, employment and working conditions have a significant impact on our health. Stable employment not only provides a measure of income security, it promotes community connection.” The fact sheet points to the increase in “precarious or casual employment” in BC as a major stress factor for parents who “need to work multiple jobs to make ends meet, leaving little or no quality time for children and partners”.
- Low wages mean higher stress levels
- Low wages affect children’s susceptibility to disease: “Adults who were poor as children are more likely to develop chronic diseases (UBC), just as those who experienced low social status in early childhood are at greater risk of developing heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer.”
- Low wage earners have poorer health
- Low wages significantly affect childhood development: “…children in low-income families are more likely to demonstrate high levels of aggression, and more than two-and-a half times more likely to have one or more physical challenges, including problems with vision, hearing, speech and mobility”.
- “…low-income adults get sicker – requiring longer hospital stays and more costly health-care services.”
- “…the work-life conflict experienced by low-income parents raising young children is costly for employers due to this group’s higher absenteeism and turnover rates and increased use of extended health benefits – all of which employers pay for.”
- “…research shows government’s lack of support for families with children – and low-income families in particular – has created unnecessary vulnerability in terms of education for today’s generation raising young children – compromising the quality of BC’s future labour force and competitiveness.”
How living wages are good for our health
- Enables us to afford a healthy diet
- Gives us more time to spend with family and participate in community events
- Improves the early childhood development of our children
- Improves our psychological well-being: “Individuals who work for a certified Living Wage Employer have significantly higher psychological well-being on average than those who don’t, per research in London, England. This result remains constant, regardless of any differences in socioeconomic or demographic composition of the two groups.”
“Since the concept of the living wage was introduced in the 1990s, living wage standards have been implemented in 140 municipalities and counties in the US…as well as in many UK cities. In 2010, the City of New Westminster, BC, became the first Canadian municipality to enact a comprehensive living wage policy, with many private employers across BC now certified as Living Wage Employers”.
The fact sheet outlines the research findings that Living Wage Employers experience increased employee stability and lower turnover rates, along with improved performance and service delivery. As well, there is a positive impact on local economies: “A 2009 Goldman Sachs report confirms that increasing the income of people with lower wages has a proportionately larger stimulating effect on the economy than increasing the income of those with high incomes. Low earners tend to spend more of their increased income than those on much higher incomes, because those on low incomes have more essential spending needs to be met by any income increases.”
The fact sheet points out, that becoming a Living Wage Employer leads to improved company reputation and profile:
- “70% of employers in the London Living Wage Program felt that being publicly recognized as Living Wage Employers increased consumer awareness of their organization’s commitment to ethical standards.”
- “Being a service contractor who pays a living wage helps gain recognition from large firms and public bodies who have developed ethical purchasing policies as part of their contracting process.”
The fact sheet also lists the requirements and gives contact information for employers who want to apply for certification as a Living Wage Employer.
Fact Sheet #3 addresses the increasing inequality in Canada’s economy: “…the middle class is shrinking and we are not tackling our continued high levels of poverty….Policy makers need to respond to this new reality with more sophisticated solutions. They need to look at social policy solutions that address the increased costs for low-wage families while also ensuring that all new and existing employment is measured against the template of a living wage.”
The low wage economy in Canada
- Canada’s economy has an unsustainable dependence on the low-wage sector: “Canada has the largest low-wage sector In the western world….As the OECD has concluded, ‘failure to tackle the poverty and exclusion facing millions of families and their children is not only socially reprehensible, but it will also weigh heavily on countries’ capacity to sustain economic growth in years to come.’”
- Since the recession most new jobs are in the low-wage sector. As well, “more than 20% of laid-off workers who found new work no longer had a pension plan.”
- Large companies are employing an increasing number of low-wage workers.
The low wage economy: the new reality
- Low-wage workers now have comparable levels of education and work at comparable level of employment as the rest of the economy.
- Low-wage jobs are no longer a route to a better paying job.
- More and more families are not earning enough to lift them out of poverty: “Many people don’t realize that British Columbia’s high child poverty rate is first and foremost about low pay….In 2011, 31.8% of poor children in BC – 44,500 children – lived in families with at least one adult working full-time, full-year, and many others lived in families with at least some income from part-time or part-year employment.”
Why should municipalities care?
- Tens of thousands of working families live in poverty in BC
- Parents in low-wage jobs are struggling to raise their children: “Families who work for low wages face impossible choices – buy food or heat the house, feed the children or pay the rent. The result can be spiralling debt, constant anxiety and long-term health problems.”
- Municipalities are paying the price for the low-wage sector. “ When children live in poverty, or when parents are compelled to work multiple jobs to stay afloat and end up with little time with their children, all of society pays the price.”
- There is wide public support for action by municipalities: “A poll undertaken by the Columbia Institute in 2011 showed that voters throughout BC are very supportive of living wage policies.”
How can a living wage improve this reality?
- Living wages are a simple and just solution
- Local government has a responsibility to be a leader
- Living wages are good for business: “Better pay translates directly into a healthier local economy. Low-income families spend almost all their money close to home, and businesses that have adopted the living wage report higher productivity and reduced staff turnover.”
Steps to developing a municipal campaign
- Develop a broad-based coalition: involve labour, faith groups, parent groups, progressive businesses, local community groups and charities, immigrant groups and academic/social policy groups.
- Calculate your local living wage rate
- Develop a strategy that is relevant to your community
- Hold a living wage event
- Build relationships, explain in detail and deal with concerns
- Include low-wage workers as speakers and advocates and provide training
- Identify a political champion on city council
- Have a specific “ask” to bring to council