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Living wage in Fraser Valley drops to $16.28 an hour

Poverty is a problem across B.C. as participants in the Chilliwack Connect event know, seen here giving out food to need folks in town in 2011. - Paul J. Henderson/FILE
Poverty is a problem across B.C. as participants in the Chilliwack Connect event know, seen here giving out food to need folks in town in 2011.
— image credit: Paul J. Henderson/FILE

More than 2,500 Chilliwack children live in poverty, yet expenses may be coming down thanks to new federal policy, according to First Call, the BC Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition.

While most parents scraping by to make ends meet might not believe it, the living wage in the Fraser Valley dropped by nearly a dollar an hour last year.

For 2016, that came out to $16.28 per hour, down from $17.27 in 2015, according to the First Call report released Wednesday.

That compares to a living wage of $20.64 per hour in Metro Vancouver, which dropped just four cents from $20.68 in 2015.

The living wage is defined hourly wage that two working parents with two young children must earn to meet their basic expenses (including rent, child care, food and transportation), once government taxes, credits, deductions and subsidies have been taken into account.

And while food and shelter costs have gone up, the federal government's new Canada Child Benefit has helped drop the living wage.

“The decrease in the living wage rates demonstrates that good public policy can have a positive impact on the lives of families,” says Deanna Ogle, with the Living Wage for Families in Metro Vancouver. “However, without the provincial government stepping up as an equal partner, we see that federal policies can only help balance out rising costs. B.C. is the only province in Canada without a poverty reduction plan. Families are counting on the provincial government to do better.”

Ogle explained that the reason the per hour figure dropped so much more in the Fraser Valley than in Vancouver is because local expenses did not increase as much as they did in Vancouver.

"For example, the increase in shelter costs in Metro Vancouver was $79 each month and child care increased by $32 per month," Ogle said. "This means that the Canada Child Care benefit had a more dramatic impact on the wage rate [in the Fraser Valley] than in Vancouver."

In the Fraser Valley, 15 per cent of people, including 11,175 children under 18 years, live in poverty (using Low Income Measure After Tax). Of those children, 23 per cent, or 2,570, live in Chilliwack, and 20 per cent reside in Abbotsford and Mission.

The Fraser Valley living wage of $16.28 per hour is the lowest in the province. Living wage rates also decreased in the Capital Regional District ($20.02), District 69 (Parksville-Qualicum), ($16.76), Prince George ($16.52) and Kamloops ($17.21).

Monthly expenses in the Fraser Valley were as follows:

Expense 2015 2016 Difference
$ %
Food 766.6 787.09 20.49 2.7
Clothing and Footwear 190.57 183.53 -7.04 -3.7
Shelter 1,088.26 1,102.77 14.51 1.3
Transportation 474.74 462.81 -11.93 -2.5
Other 721.70 731.85 10.15 1.4
Child Care 1,184.48 1,184.76 0.28 0
Non MSP Health Expenses 139 139 0 0
MSP Premiums 144 150 6 4.2
Two Weeks Pay (vacation pay)
201.48 189.23 -12.25 -6.1
Parent Education 112.96 114.54 1.58 1.4
Total 5,023.79 5,045.58 21.79 0.4
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