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A living wage is what a worker needs to earn per hour, in a 40 hour work week, in order to make ends meet where they live. In Bruce Grey, the living wage has increased by 12.5 percent for 2022 to $20.70 per hour.

The most significant driver for the increase was the cost of housing, said Francesca Dobbyn, Executive Director United Way of Bruce Grey, in a November 14 media release, adding that the data was calculated in the summer, prior to the recent inflationary issues for food and other consumable costs.

"This is the bottom, this is the barely making a budget work Living Wage," Dobbyn said.

A living wage is calculated by looking at major expenses such as shelter costs, transportation, childcare, and food. Also taken into account are other expenses such as internet access, clothing, and a modest annual vacation. Any applicable government taxes, transfers, and benefits are also factored in, the release said.

In Bruce Grey, three demographic profiles were used to generate the standardized Living Wage for the region:

Single person: $19.12
Single parent with two children: $24.74
Two parents with two children: $21.05 for both parents

“The demand for emergency food rose sharply during the pandemic. However, community meal programs and food banks are reporting they are still seeing high numbers and new faces in Grey Bruce," said Jill Umbach, Co-ordinator with the Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force.

"Despite the long history of food banks in Grey Bruce, household food insecurity has persisted at high rates," Umbach said, adding that recent studies have found that one in six people in Ontario live in a household experiencing food insecurity and about one in five children in Canada live in a food-insecure household.

The Living Wage budget does not account for:

• Savings
• Education savings for children
• Home-ownership costs
• Costs to caretake a family member
• Pets
• Social engagements
• Debt repayments

The United Way began issuing a living wage report in 2014 using a single income family profile. To add their voice to the provincial Ontario Living Wage (ontariolivingwage.ca) call for action, the United Way reconfigured their data to align with the provincial representative framework. The framework was developed by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

“A job should lift the employee out of poverty,” Dobbyn explained. “With the significant increases to the cost of housing we see locally, people are working, yet sliding further and further into poverty.” While no one should live below the poverty line, there is an understanding and an expectation that being employed should lift that person, and their family, out of poverty.

The recent Grey Bruce Nutritious Food Basket Survey revealed that for low-income households in Grey-Bruce, current income levels are not adequate to pay for basic living costs, including food and housing. The United Way of Bruce Grey and The Bruce Grey Poverty Task Force advocate for a move from relying on a food charity model to public policies that increase the incomes of vulnerable households in Bruce and Grey.

Benefits to businesses who pay a Living Wage include:

• Reduced recruitment costs
• Reduced training costs
• Better morale
• Employees do not have to hold down multiple jobs just to make ends meet
• Less fatigue
• Increased productivity

There are over 500 certified living wage employers in Ontario. Visit www.ontariolivingwage.ca/directory for more.

The 2022 Living Wage Breakdown in Bruce Grey infographic shows a living wage of $20.70 per hour with shelter costs at $18,813 for a three bedroom, $17,185 for a two bedroom, and $14,814 for a one bedroom.   Transportation has seen a 17.3% increase. Internet, cell plans, medical and clothing, etc. has increased 28.9%. Food has increased 13%, and child care 5.2%.  Figures represent an aggregation of three household types. For more: ontariolivingwage.ca/documentation.

The 2022 Living Wage Breakdown for Bruce Grey. Click for larger view.