The Living Wage for Families Campaign is a poverty reduction strategy to address, in particular, child and family poverty in Canada.
Activists and policy researchers alike have agreed that a family of four provides a good representation of all the possible costs incurred by the majority of family types, from families with many children to lone-parent families to single-person households.
Other communities have calculated the living wage rate for a single-person household to be very close to the rate for a four-person family. While a family with children has significant child care costs, there are economies of scale around housing that are not available to a single person, so the costs balance out.
The most recent community to calculate a single-person household rate was Brantford, Ontario but a few communities in Ontario have done this calculation. The living wage report calculated the living wage rate for a four-person household, a single-parent family and a lone-person household. The Perth-Huron Social Research and Planning Council did a comparison of the rates from a few communities and found that the rates were close.
Where we do see the most significant differences is for single-parent households. The Living Wage for Families Campaign and the CCPA-BC do the living wage calculation every year with a family that is a lone parent with one child. We do this calculation to see if a single mom (we use the term single mom because it is most common but we recognize that many aunties, grandmas and dads are also primary caregivers of children) could meet their costs under the current living wage. For us this opens up a dialogue around just how important income thresholds and subsidies are to ensuring that families are able to meet costs and what happens when those thresholds are not based on the realities of expenses for families.
It is also important to us to recognize that our families transition throughout our life and although we may be single today we may want to have a family or we may already be supporting family that does not live with us. Families are complex and relationship ties aren’t always visible to someone outside the situation. The LGBTTQ community has a long history of relationships or “chosen family” that have not met traditionally recognized roles.
Ultimately, the point of the living wage calculation is to provide a benchmark around what it costs to live in a community, and to raise the discussion about why we have such endemic poverty in Canada and the broad range of supports we need to address it. The development of one calculation allows us to focus on moving employers to paying a decent wage and calling on governments to increase minimum wages to reasonable levels.