A new study has found that the hourly wage required to meet the ‘living wage’ threshold in Revelstoke is the fourth highest in B.C.
Community Futures general manager Kevin Dorrius says Revelstoke’s living wage issue needs to be looked at from both a social and economic development perspective if it’s going to be solved.
A recent report released by the Living Wage for Families Campaign finds Revelstoke has the fourth highest living wage in the province at $18.77 per hour. That means that out of the communities surveyed in the study, Revelstoke had the fourth highest wage requirement to earn what’s known as a living wage. This is a slight decrease from the previous living wage calculation which was done in 2015. At that time Revelstoke’s living wage was calculated at $18.87 per hour.
“While I don’t think too many people are surprised by this figure at this point, it is a reminder that despite all of the economic success Revelstoke has seen, we have major challenges around affordability, housing, and food security that need to be addressed,” said Dorrius.
The hourly wage is based on what two working parents with two young children need to make in order to meet basic expenses. While living expenses have actually increased, the introduction of the federal child tax credit has helped to offset this.
Community Connections social justice advocate Cathy Girling said while she was pleased to see the living wage for families had decreased slightly, she was concerned that the report did not address the low availability of housing in Revelstoke.
“It would be illuminating to know the percentage of Revelstoke families who have incomes that do not reach the living wage rate, and set some measurable goals for reducing those numbers in poverty reduction planning,” Girling said in an email to the Mountaineer.
The report itself does not include this information. However, Social Development Coordinator Jill Zacharias said in a media statement that approximately 1/3 of Revelstoke residents continue to struggle financially.
“Using the latest taxfiler data available (2014) and comparing total actual incomes to our cost of living analysis, we now know that 33% of ‘couple families with children’ in our community have total incomes below a living wage (total needed is about $68,500),” said Zacharias.
Dorrius said while Revelstoke has a definite gap between wages and living wages, he doesn’t think a living wage campaign will work for Revelstoke. Instead, he says the business community needs to be engaged in coming up with solutions.
“I think we can all agree there is an affordability issue,” said Dorrius. “I’m hoping if we can get a bunch of entrepreneurs in a room we can come up with some creative solutions.”
Zacharias agrees pressuring businesses to pay higher wages isn’t a realistic solution.
“We would like to focus on strategies that offset or decrease the cost of living [like affordable housing initiatives] while attracting higher paying jobs,” said Zacharias.
Zacharias said from a social development perspective there is concern about the health and well-being of individuals and families who do not make a living wage.
“We understand that when people are struggling to make ends meet or having to work more than one job to get by, it is very difficult for them to participate fully in both family and community,” she said.