Money Matters; Cost of Living vs. Minimum Wage

Anyone who has worked for minimum wage knows that it’s far from comfortable living. Maclean’s magazine confirms what most of us already know: the top two sectors where minimum wage is prominent is in retail and food/accommodation services. Minimum wage is also earned primarily by young people, and women tend to earn minimum wage more so than men. 2013 statistics indicate that about 6% of Manitoba’s 1.282 million earn minimum wage, or nearly 77,000 people in the province.

While it’s fair to say that a teenager living at home don’t usually need a higher minimum wage, many university and college students work part-time (or some students full-time) on low-wages to help ease the financial burden of school. The cost of living itself can be sky-high for Brandonites. When students are looking for a roommate, it can be at least $500 depending on the room, location, restrictions (i.e.: pet-friendly, smoke-free, etc.). If someone’s looking to live on their own, usually it’s going to be at least $700 for a decent home in an ideal location with a decent amount of space and storage, which may or may not include utilities. Since Brandon has a very low vacancy rate, it leaves few options for rent. If you dream of owning your own home, you’re better off to commute from surrounding communities than to buy a house in Brandon for the cost.  

Fortunately for students without a vehicle, our student fees pay for bus services, otherwise it’s $1.50 fare one way for an adult. Then there’s the cost of groceries, personal care products, and household products. 

There are rentals available in smaller cities in Ontario, such as Sarnia and Windsor, that are comparable to Brandon, except Ontario boosted their minimum wage to $14/hr with another increase coming in 2019.  Somehow, a Manitoban minimum wage earner is supposed to be able to pay for this as easily as a minimum wage earner from Ontario.

You could make a number of arguments against minimum wage increase such as it would cause job losses or that adult wage-earners should avoid low paying jobs. Sometimes job opportunities and educational advancements, or debt, may mean someone doesn’t have a lot of choice as to providing income. It’s often minimum wage jobs that carry a lot of emotional labour (your work is about managing the emotions of yourself and others) which is often undervalued, repetitive tasks and are devalued positions in the workforce. Isn’t that worth something?