Poverty reduction coalition points to alarming numbers

The Antigonish Poverty Reduction Coalition has been promoting their effort "Sustainable Antigonish."

ANTIGONISH: A recent report lists a living wage for the average local family.

On December 18, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives–Nova Scotia, in partnership with the Antigonish Poverty Reduction Coalition, released a report entitled “Working for a Living, Not Living for Working” which calculated a living wage rate for both Antigonish and Halifax. The report states a two child-two parent family requires a $17.30 hourly wage for each parent, working at least 35 hours a week.

Christine Johnson, chair of the Antigonish Poverty Reduction Coalition, said such a family would need $62,972 for the year.

“[The numbers in the report] tell me we have a lot of people who would not be earning wages like that,” said Johnson. “So we have a lot of people living in poverty. What’s interesting about it is this is a very tight and conservative estimate.”

Johnson said the median income for a couple raising a family is around $74,000 but there are a lot of people not meeting that amount. She said part of the report included a focus group with people who have low incomes and one of the striking concerns surrounds housing.

“We put a number in there based on the average rental,” she said. “People told us it is almost impossible to get a suitable apartment for a family at that cost. They also have a hard time finding housing in the first place.”

The report also shared a quote from one person who said a living wage would mean “living without being stressed to the max and making yourself sick.”

At the end of the day, said Johnson, the report shows people don’t have enough money to live well. Members of the focus group told organizers they spend far less on food than what was listed in the report. Johnson said people are going without quality food or enough food in general, which is a big problem.

As for solutions, Johnson pointed to investments in affordable housing and affordable childcare, two of the largest expenses for families.

“If you start to get arguments coming back from the private sector saying ‘we could never afford to pay that,’ what they need to do is advocate for adequate social policy so that their wages are enough,” she said.

“There are a lot of benefits to employers paying a living wage. There’s been research done elsewhere that’s shown that it can actually save money because you have happier workers with fewer turnovers.”