A family of four in Sudbury needs to earn $66,513 annually to meet the bare minimum cost of living, says a new report from the Social Planning Council of Sudbury.
The report estimated basic costs for food, shelter, clothing, transportation and other essentials of daily life in Sudbury to determine how much two parents, with two young children, would need to earn enough to cover the basics.
In terms of an hourly rate, if both parents work they would each need to earn $16.18 an hour to meet that basic threshold.
But the number does not take into account savings for the children's post-secondary education, nor does it acknowledge any debt a family might carry.
With its new numbers in hand, the Social Planning Council of Sudbury partnered with the Sudbury Worker's Education and Advocacy Centre to launch a new Living Wage Campaign, to encourage employers to pay their employees at least the bare minimum they need to make ends meet.
Donna Nilson has first-hand experience with the difficulties and stress that can stem from precarious and low-paying work.
After she lost a contract job with the Ministry of Natural Resources in Sudbury – where she was making $19 an hour – Nilson moved to New Brunswick, where got a seasonal job making $11.50 an hour.
“I was able to go out and do things, participate in community events,” she said. “I don't go out anymore. I'm barely making my rent.”
After her seasonal work ended, Nilson returned to Sudbury, and has struggled to find a new job.
“If you don't watch yourself you tend to almost fall into a depression,” she said.
And Nilson isn't alone.
According to the Social Planning Council of Sudbury report, 33 per cent of workers in Ontario were paid low wages in 2014, compared to 22 per cent in 2004.
The report also said part-time employment in Ontario has grown by 25 per cent since 2000, and temporary employment increased by 40 per cent. Full-time work has increased only 16 per cent in the same period.
Nicole Beaulieu, the executive director of the Sudbury Worker's Education and Advocacy Centre, said families earning the minimum wage in Ontario – of $11.25 an hour – struggle to pay their rent, purchase healthy food and buy clothing for their children.
In addition to its Living Wage Campaign, the centre has also lobbied the provincial government to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour.
Beaulieu said that while some employers might argue paying higher wages leads to increased costs for their customers, paying employees more also leads to less turnover, absenteeism, and saves employers extra training costs.
The Sudbury Worker's Education and Advocacy Centre recognized the Sudbury Credit Union and the Social Planning Council of Sudbury as fair living wage employers, and encourages other employers to follow suit.