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Can you afford to keep living in BC?

If the pandemic did one good thing, it opened people’s eyes to the life they wanted to live – and where they wanted to live it.

Coincidentally, a lot of people decided BC was the place to create this life. In fact, 2021 was the highest on record for net migration since 1961, with year-end data from Statistics Canada stating over 100,000 people made the decision to move to beautiful BC throughout the year.

Who can blame them? With 6,000 km of hiking trails, beautiful waterways, loungeable coast lines and bustling cities, BC seems like the perfect place to work and play.

But are the majority of us living out our dreams comfortably here in BC?

<who> Photo Credit: Pexel - James Wheeler

What does living wage mean?

The living wage is the amount of money a household has to earn per hour to cover the cost of living, as in a roof over your head, food on the table, child care, transportation and modest recreation – basic economic security.

Keep in mind that living wage values do not include savings for things like homeownership or retirement, or the cost of children's education. And they certainly do not account for the cost of caring for a disabled or ill family member.

Although the definition of a typical household can vary region to region, according to Living Wages for Families BC, the most common family unit in BC includes two parents and two kiddos, thus that is the household size considered when calculating these values.

The calculation of living wages includes income from employment plus income from government transfers, minus EI and CPP premiums, federal and provincial taxes.

<who> Photo Credit: Living Wage for Families BC

Living wages city to city

When you think of expensive places to live, you probably think of Vancouver, Victoria and Kelowna, at least as far as BC is concerned.

But as it turns out, the ski towns of BC take the cake.

Whilst Metro-Vancouver and Victoria sit high on the list at $24.08 per hour and $24.29 per hour respectively, Golden, BC, a tourist destination that is home to a world class ski resort, is actually more expensive, topping out at $25.56 per hour!

Other ski towns like Revelstoke, which sits at $23.60, and Fernie, at $23.58, also seem to be roughly a dollar per hour more expensive than Kelowna, which sits at $22.88 per hour.

This year, the living wage in many cities rose at a faster rate than the rate of inflation, with Kelowna’s going up 27.3%, Victoria’s going up 18.7% and Metro Vancouver’s going up 17.3%.

So if you’re living in one of those cities and your wage didn’t increase at a similar rate in the past year, you’re probably feeling the sting.

<who> Photo Credit: Canva

Who can afford it?

Whilst some of us are comfortably coasting through life in BC with a beefy salary, others are struggling with food security.

According to Statistics Canada, the average hourly wage in BC for full-time workers was $32.46 in 2021. However, the median wage stood at a significantly lower $29.33, suggesting that most people actually make less than $32.46, but a smaller population of higher earners are skewing the statistic.

Of course, there are lots of factors to consider when discussing wages.

Wages are slightly different for men and women in BC. According to the same statistic, the average wage for men was $34.35, and $30.31 for women, while the median wage for men was $31.54 and $26.50 for women.

The industry you’re employed in also has an impact on your wage.

Stats Canada reports that the median wage for full-time workers, across both sexes, in forestry, fishing, mining, quarrying, oil and gas, or public administration make almost $10 more per hour on average than those working in manufacturing, and almost $20 more on average than those in accommodation and food services.

Minimum wage vs living wage

So, now that we understand what the living wage is and we’ve talked a bit about compensation, let’s look at the minimum wage.

The minimum wage is the lowest wage rate an employer is allowed to pay an employee. In Canada, this value varies depending on your province and territory.

As of June 1, 2022, the minimum wage in BC sits at $15.65.

In 2021, the BC Ministry of Labour reported that 6% of employees earned minimum wage or less – 52% of those employees were over the age of 25, and 58% of them were women.

Considering that in 2021, the minimum wage was $15.65 per hour, and the living wage ranged between $16.33 per hour to $20.52, depending on the city – at least 136,000 people in BC did not make a living wage that year.

<who> Photo Credit: Canva

How does the future look?

According to a long-term economic forecast from TD Bank, rising interest rates will likely take a toll on both spending and hiring through 2024. However, the forecast also predicts that inflation probably peaked this year, so price pressures should begin to ease.

Additionally, Eckler’s Compensation Planning Survey for 2022, which gathered responses from 269 organizations, tells us 44% of organizations are unsure about 2023 salary changes, leaving the compensation market unpredictable and reliant heavily on economic factors and labour force pressure.

BC’s Labour Market Outlook is forecasting that there will be more than one million job openings in the next ten years, with 80% of them requiring post-secondary education or training of some sort.

Further, over half of those jobs will amass into five industry groups: health care and social care, professional, scientific and technical services, retail trade, construction, and accommodation or food services.

So it might be a good idea to crank the volume on the “go to college” message for family members who will be entering the workforce in the next ten years!

However, if for whatever reason that is not an option, BC’s Labour Market Outlook 2021 also says about 85,000 jobs in skilled trades with excellent earning potential will be available over the next 10 years.

What do you think?

Can you afford to keep living in BC? Let us know!

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