Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Minimum wage (and almost minimum wage) stats an eye opener

I've already blogged my support for Ontario's proposed increase in the minimum wage from $11.40 to $15.00, and addressed the complaints of some that such a move will bring our whole economy crashing to a grinding halt. But I am still reading regular reports from companies and business types whining that their businesses will be decimated, the latest such being Metro supermarkets' dire warnings that food prices will shoot up overnight.
So, I got to wondering just how many people will be actually affected by the changes. It's difficult to find up-to-date figures (not sure why), but I did find some 2015 stats that throw some light on the subject.
It seems that, in 2015, some 675,500 Ontarians were paid the minimum wage ("or less"), representing about 11% of the entire workforce. I have to say that's way more than I expected, and it's also more than in any other province (both in absolute and in percentage terms). Only PEI and Manitoba come close in percentage terms.
And then there's something else I had never considered before: it's not just minimum wage earners that will be affected - everyone who is paid less than $15 will effectively receive a raise. The same stats tell me that, again in 2015, 1,670,100 Ontario workers earned less than $15 per hour, or a huge 28.6% of the working population. Looked at through this lens, in percentage terms at least, several other provinces (mainly in the Maritimes) are even more reliant on the low-wage economy than Ontario: 38% workers in PEI earn less than $15/hour, 36% in New Brunswick, and about 33% in Nova Scotia and in Newfoundland.
One thing these stats highlight - apart from the blunt fact of the appalling numbers of Canadians who are essentially on the breadline - is that there are more substantially more people earning just above minimum wage than there are who earn the minimum wage itself, something that had never occurred to me before.
Other sources go on to explain that women, young people and the poorly educated are significantly overrepresented in the low-wage sector (which I DID know), and that the industries most affected are food and accommodation (27%) and retail (17%), which comes as no surprise.
Anyway, none of this has changed my opinions on Ontario's proposed legislation. But it certainly is an eye-opener to see the extent of such wage poverty within a wealthy country like Canada, and particularly in the very wealthy part of it in which I live.

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