The minimum wage in British Columbia is presently $14.60 per hour, which falls far below the amount that would ensure full-time work pays enough to cover living expenses. In June 2021, the minimum wage will increase to $15.20 per hour, but there are no further plans to increase it again after this date. The Living Wage for Families campaign has calculated that the living wage in Metro Vancouver is $19.50 per hour. Neither the current minimum wage of $14.60, or the planned 2021 increase to $15.20, are close to this enough for workers to get by.
While the minimum wage was once intended to be a legislated amount that would ensure every worker could cover their living expenses, it has not kept up with inflation or the rising costs of living, especially housing. Many students can relate to the struggle of trying to balance the high costs of being a student — rising tuition fees, high rents in the lower mainland, and rising food costs — with their limited means of generating income on part-time hours and a low minimum wage.
Many students work for minimum wage jobs that don’t pay enough to cover basic costs. Now more than ever, students are finding themselves on the frontlines of precarious employment situations with little compensation, and an increased risk of COVID-19 exposure.
The Capilano Students’ Union is calling on the provincial government to implement a living wage for every community in British Columbia, recognizing that the cost of living is different depending where one lives in the province.
TRUE OR FALSE
FALSE — The minimum wage is the legislated minimum set by the provincial government. A living wage calls on employers to ensure that wages for their staff reflect the true costs of living in their community.
FALSE — Studies show that businesses usually absorb cost increases related to living wage policies through a combination of price and productivity increases, reduced turnover, and redistribution of staff.
TRUE — The Capilano Students’ Union became a certified Living Wage Employer with the Living Wage for Families campaign in 2017, committing to pay all employees a living wage. They are the only student association in BC to do this.
FALSE — Though many students do not have dependents, the average cost of living for students is comparable to the cost of living calculated by the Living Wage for Families campaign. Students must pay tuition fees and other costs associated with education on top of regular expenses. Not all students have access to government grants and loans, and some finance their education solely through their employment.
TRUE — A living wage policy is good for the local economy. Small businesses draw their customers from the local community and higher incomes allow families to purchase more goods and services in their own neighbourhoods.
FALSE — Costs rise all the time without workers receiving a pay increase and wages are just one of many factors contributing to the cost of an item.
For example: When Seattle committed to raise their minimum wage to $15 per hour, researchers started studying consumer prices for goods. They found that the increase in minimum wage had no impact on the prices of goods, that costs went up by the same amount in Seattle as they did in surrounding communities that didn’t see a raise to their minimum wage (University of Washington Minimum Wage Study, 2016).
FALSE — No one should have to live in poverty to access education. This attitude — that poverty is “part of the student experience” — is what allows politicians and government figures to brush aside the calls of students for affordable housing, education, and other services.
- Contact your local MLA
Write a letter to your local representative asking them to implement a living wage in your community. Tell them why a living wage is important to you, and how it would improve your life! Use this tool to check who your MLA is, and use this example letter for ideas.
- Share our social media content
Become an official campaign ambassador and share our content on your social media. We have graphics for Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Make sure you tag @capstudentunion in your posts and stories!