Ontario’s increase to the minimum wage from $15.50 to $16.55 went into effect last month. The 6.8 per cent increase was meant to help people in the face of high inflation and cost of living. But college students, many of whom work minimum wage jobs, are saying this isn’t anywhere near enough.
“I definitely don’t think it’s enough to keep up with the cost of living in the Etobicoke Area,” said Humber Lakeshore student Adrien Glazer who works a minimum wage job, “I honestly don’t think the wage increase is going to make a difference for me financially.”
The Ford government announced plans for the increase earlier this year in March. According to Statistics Canada, the majority of minimum wage workers in Ontario are between the ages of 15 to 24.
Glazer said she’s noticed the price of rent and living in Toronto has gone up exponentially since she moved here a little over two years ago.
The current living wage in the Greater Toronto Area is $25.05 per hour. The living wage represents how much you would need to make an hour to meet the actual cost of the real expenses of living in a certain area. The new minimum wage is still $8.50 below what someone would need to keep up with costs.
This means, if minimum wage continues to increase at the rate of approximately 6.8 per cent per year, it would take close to seven years until the hourly minimum reaches the current Toronto living wage in 2023.
For Glazer, the cost of living has become a financial burden on top of the tuition she is paying to study at Humber College. This increase of $1.05 per hour is simply not enough to make up the difference in how much necessities cost now.
“I don’t think the average person can afford to pay rent working solely for minimum wage, affording my rent is a struggle. I’m honestly afraid sometimes I’m going to have to live where I live for the foreseeable future because it’s all I can afford,” she said.
Vass Bednar, an adjunct lecturer of Political Science and creator behind the “Regs to Riches” newsletter, thinks there is still a big gap to fill. Decisions must be made in the context of location and a true understanding of how far a dollar goes in different communities.
“Canadian public policymaking is still really insensitive to variations in geography,” Bednar said.
She thinks there are still ways for people to show up and take a stance.
Bednar believes one way to do this is for consumers to start voting with their dollars,
“Support firms that declare that they pay their workers a livable wage or restaurants and coffee shops that don’t ask for tips because they pay a living wage. That’s one way that people can sort of signal their values and their preferences that can end up being very powerful in changing broader behaviour,” she said.
The current minimum wage rate will apply through September 30, 2024.