Living wage in Canada

In a TED talk, Rutger Bregman mentioned a study conducted by researchers at Harvard, who found that financial stress affects people’s cognitive ability. The study found that people under financial stress performed about 14 IQ points lower than when under less stress. They committed more mistakes and presented slower responses. The effect on cognitive ability can be felt by both adults and children. Children from low-income families have lower literacy levels and are less likely to do well in school which can predispose them to difficulties such as poor health or underemployment and job insecurity when they reach adulthood. Living wage enables families to support the development of their children and participate in their communities, while reducing risks of financial stress.

Living wage can be defined as being the amount that two working parents (working full-time at 35 hours per week) with two children (aged 4 and 7) need to earn by hour to fulfill the family’s basic expenses, after government deductions and subsidies. Basic expenses include food, clothing, rental housing, child care, transportation, and small savings for emergencies, and illness.

Living wage in Canada varies across provinces and cities, because it takes into consideration the prices of living in that community. Some examples include:

Province City Living wage
Alberta Calgary $18.15
British Columbia Vancouver $20.91
Manitoba Winnipeg $14.54
Northwest Territories Yellowknife $20.68
Nova Scotia Halifax $19.17
Ontario Toronto $18.52
Saskatchewan Regina $16.95
Yukon Yukon Territory $18.26

In British Columbia, the living wage is as follows:

Areas Living wage
Metro Vancouver $20.91
Fraser Valley $17.40
Parksville/Qualicum $17.02
Greater Victoria $20.50
Kamloops $17.31
Comox Valley $16.59
Revelstoke $19.37
Powell River $17.15
North Central BC $16.51

Living wage and companies

stress is one of the biggest concerns of companies regarding their employees well being. Companies who provides a living wage to employees are impacted by:

  • Reduced absenteeism, turnover, training, and recruitment costs
  • Increased productivity level, skill and customer satisfaction

Companies from different industries in British Columbia who provide a living wage to their employees include Vancity, SAP, Hastings Labour Law Office LLP, and others. The Living Wage for Families provides instructions to help companies in becoming a living wage employer. There are sustainability standards and certification organizations that includes living wage as one of their practices, such as Fairtrade International, and Forestry Stewardship Council.

More resources

Search for more resources on the UBC Library Catalogue by using the query “Living wage”. Books, ebooks, peer-reviewed and news articles are some of the materials that you’ll find.


-Anker, R., Anker, M. & DOAB: Directory of Open Books. (2017). Living wages around the world: manual for measurement. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar Publishing. Retrieved from:
-Community Social Planning Council. (2018). $20.50 wage per hour: dialogue on the real costs of living. Canadian Books and Public Policy. Retrieved from:
-Feinberg, C. (2015). The science of scarcity. Harvard Magazine. Retrieved from:
-Ivanova, I., Klein, S. & Raithby, T. (2018). Working for a living wage: making paid work meet basic family needs in Metro Vancouver. Policy Alternatives. Retrieved from:
-Robson, C. (2017). Simple steps to make you richer and smarter. Money brain. Sun Herald. Retrieved from:

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