Nordik Institute Calculates Sault Ste. Marie’s Living Wage
An hourly wage of $16.16 is what would be necessary for a dual-income family with two children to meet basic expenses and enjoy a modest, but decent standard of living according to a report released by NORDIK Institute.
A living wage is calculated with a consideration of community-specific family expenses. The Sault Ste. Marie wage reflects an adequate income for a family of four (two full-time working adults and two children) to cover their reasonable needs and participate socially in their community.
The calculation is based on a balance of basic annual family expenses such as food, housing, transportation, clothing and other basic costs, with the employment income and income from government benefits and subsidies, subtracting applicable taxes. Based on a balance of income and expenses, the basic standard of living that the calculation presumes can be achieved by increasing wages, decreasing expenses or a combination of both measures.
“In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, many workers who have been deemed essential are confronting serious risks every day and still not earning a living wage,” says Sean Meades, Director of NORDIK Institute. “But we have also seen many local small businesses struggle to stay afloat, and even before the pandemic many struggled to meet their payroll obligations. Most employers want to pay their employees well, but not all are able. We can also reach that same standard of living by decreasing costs.
“For example, governments would have to provide free child care and expand OHIP coverage to include dental, vision, and prescription drugs to make the current $14 an hour minimum a living wage” Meades continued. “Where the government shifts tax collection to pay for those services could alter the result further, but those are political choices.” Other policy options that could drive down the cost of living include targeting automobile insurance, transportation, rent, hydro, cell phone and internet costs, which also make up sizable portions of annual family spending.
The calculation follows the Canadian Living Wage Framework: A National Methodology for Calculating the Living Wage in Your Community developed by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA). Based on this framework, the Ontario Living Wage Network (OLWN) has developed a consistent methodology for estimating the living wages for the communities in Ontario.
In the absence of political intervention to drive the costs of living down, paying the living wage is one way to ensure workers can afford to meet their basic needs and have a decent standard of living for enterprises that can afford it. Lead researcher on the project, Tamanna Rimi, expressed hope that “this first living wage calculation report for Sault Ste. Marie will inspire policy actions by local employers and all levels of government while drawing attention to the affordability issues faced by local families.” The living wage represents a voluntary commitment by local public, private and non-profit sector employers to compensate workers at a level consistent with this standard of living.
The report is one action item identified by the Sault Ste. Marie Poverty Round Table: Progress on Impact Report, released in January 2020 by the Poverty Roundtable initiative in Sault Ste. Marie. Chaired by Lauren Doxtater, FutureSSM’s Social Equity Coordinator, the Poverty Roundtable developed and monitors the Poverty Reduction Strategy for Sault Ste. Marie, which was created by local social service providers and previously co-chaired by representatives from the United Way of Sault Ste. Marie and District and Algoma Public Health.
To access or learn more about the Living Wage Report, visit NORDIK’s website or click here.
NORDIK (Northern Ontario Research, Development, Ideas and Knowledge) Institute is a community-based research group that has evolved from the Community, Economic, and Social Development (CESD) program and research at Algoma University. Since its inception in 2006, NORDIK has established strong links with other research institutes, universities, and colleges. NORDIK is committed to the practice of holistic community development and building local research capacity by working closely with its community partners and providing mentorship to new researchers and community development practitioners. For more information, please visit www.nordikinstitute.com.
This research is part of NORDIK Institute’s Sustainable North initiative. Sustainable North is an emergent research and evidence-based policy suite investigating options to promote greater community resilience, sustainability, and improved equitable quality of life in Northern Ontario.