Living wage jumps to $19.05 an hour in eastern Ontario: United Way Peterborough and District

According to a report released Monday entitled “The Gap” by United Way Peterborough and District, the weighted average living wage for eastern Ontario is now $19.05 an hour for 35 hours per week for 50 weeks per year.

That’s up from $18.35 an hour for Peterborough from the last living wage report released in 2021.

“The living wage rate is calculated based on modest expenses for someone living in Peterborough,” said Betsy Farrar, United Way Peterborough manager of community impact and principal author of “The Gap.”

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“It is important to note that the calculation does not include expenses beyond the necessities of daily living such as paying off past debt or saving for future expenses such as retirement, home ownership or a child’s education.”

For a single adult, the report calculates annual expenses at $31,127 and a living wage of $18.95 an hour.

A single parent with one child would have annual expenses of nearly $44,000 and a living wage of $23.85 an hour, while a family of four with two adults and two children would have annual expenses of $71,127 and both parents would need to make $17.82 an hour each.

“The increases we are seeing to our living wage year over year reflect the rising costs of absolute essentials such as food and housing,” said Jim Russell, United Way Peterborough CEO.

“Meanwhile, the growing gap between a living wage and a minimum wage, or government benefits programs, are a stark indication that those earning less than a living wage are not able to make ends meet.”

The report also illustrates the growing gap between monthly expenses and the incomes for those earning a minimum wage of $15.50 in Ontario, Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP), and Ontario Works (OW).

The calculations demonstrate that single adults earning a minimum wage are making 82 per cent of a living wage, and are $423.92 short of covering basic monthly expenses, the maximum benefit available for ODSP are making 44 per cent of a living wage, and are $1,365.92 short of covering their basic monthly expenses, and the maximum benefit available for OW are making 26.5 per cent of a living wage, and are $1,860.92 short of covering their basic monthly expenses.

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“As an integral social determinant of health, income plays a significant role in the health of individuals and our community,” said Dr. Thomas Piggott, Peterborough’s medical officer of health.

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“Individuals and families earning low incomes are faced with decisions between spending their limited income on basic human necessities such as food or housing, forcing people to rely on services like food banks or give up some expenses entirely.”

At the media event Wednesday morning, Russell, Farrar and Piggott challenged Peterborough area employers to start paying a living wage to their employees.

“Pick up the net and tighten the mesh,” Russell said.

“That’s what the call is this morning.”

“I would encourage businesses that are not offering a minimum living wage to think about what you’re doing to your staff,” Piggott added.

“Even if the minimum wage provincially is $15.50 doesn’t mean that needs to be the wage you provide.  Businesses that aren’t providing a living wage are contributing to this problem.”

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